Last week I took a return bus journey which transported me back to a time and a service that I had thought disappeared.
The route is between two centres of a decent population but taking in small villages for which this bus is the only service. It travels the whole route return four times a day.
I got on the bus and asked the fare and the driver was meticulous in ascertaining if I needed a return ticket (because it's much cheaper love ) and in informing me of the return times (because you don't want to miss the last bus do you now love?) For the record I don't mind being called love because it's a local thing and it's nice.
As I sat down I noticed that everyone that boarded was given a personal greeting and it appeared that many of the elderly passengers were known to the driver by name. The journey itself took about 10 minutes longer than timetabled, not due to any traffic problems but because the driver really did provide a very personal service. Not only did he stop at all the regulated stops but he also stopped where convenient to an individual passenger. Each one was given a cheery 'tarra' from the driver. And this is why I will not name either the bus company or the route because I have a horrible feeling that allowing passengers to board or disembark at anywhere other than a designated stop is probably against the law or something similar.
At journeys end I was wished a good day along with everyone else.
The return journey was what really took me back. It was the same driver and after responding to his question as to whether I had enjoyed my day I asked whether he was the only driver on the route, which he confirmed he was. This explained why everyone knew him and why he knew them. As the journey was being taken during the rush hour most of the passengers were workers returning home for the evening. I was struck by how they sat in groups, chatting and discussing the days events. Seats were kept free for those who joined the bus later on in the journey. The driver greeted everyone by name and asked about their day and each passenger asked after the drivers day and/or health.
As people reached home there were numerous goodnights' around the bus and to the driver and then as the driver drove off again, the people who had disembarked waved to the driver and their friends and everyone waved back! It was delightful and reminded me of travelling by bus as a child with my Mother who always knew all the drivers and conductors.
This journey gladdened my heart and put a massive smile on my face. The only downside to all of this is the route is heavily subsidised by two councils. I sincerely hope that with all the cutbacks that are being made and are to be made, that this service will not lose out, for neither leg of the journey was full by any sort of description you would care to use. Not only would the villages lose their only service but a little bit of happiness would be lost too.