There are two kinds of people that ride on public transport. Bus People and people who just catch the bus. Now, unless you have any experience with public transport, you probably don’t really understand the difference, so allow me to explain. *ahem* The latter are people who have no other means of getting from A to B and just want to get to their destination without getting beaten up or stabbed. The former are the kinds of people who do the beating up and stabbing; otherwise known as the Bus People.
I currently only hold a learner permit and don’t own a car so when I have to get somewhere that isn’t within walking distance, I often have to rely on busses. The problem with that – apart from the fact that I hate people and busses were made to cart large groups of them at once – is that the bus I have to catch most often just so happens to go from one bad area to another. Which means I usually have to catch the bus with vulgar, loud mouthed, drug addicted and often unwashed cretins, who have fifteen billion scummy kids and count ‘professional dole bludger’ as the only job in their employment history. And that’s on a good day.
I had my most recent encounter with the Bus People just the other day. I boarded the bus with an elderly Asian man and four girls from a local high school. The girls were shouting so loud that even at the highest comfortable listening volume, I could hear them over my music and subsequently turned it off in disgust. The Asian man was sitting there, harmlessly minding his own business while the four girls screamed at him that he was a paedophile and a pervert for talking to them and following them onto the bus. The only words he spoke to them were regarding a pink sash one of the girls was wearing and the bus we were on was the last one for the day, so their claims were entirely unfounded. I tried to ignore them, since it wasn’t my place to intervene but when they started throwing things at the man and planning to steal the hat from his very head, I couldn’t sit back any longer. I turned to the ringleader of the group – a heavyset girl in ill fitting clothing, with uncombed hair and a foul mouth – and asked her if she had a problem. The juvenile aggressor proceeded to curse and sneer with false bravado, while I spoke calmly in the Asian man’s defence until she said to me, in a typical example of Bus Person dialogue, “do you wanna fuckin’ go, cunt?”, to which I responded by looking her straight in the eye and saying “sure. Let’s get off the bus at the next stop and have it out, shall we?”
Now at this point, all four girls stared at me, identical expressions of disbelief and discomfort mirrored in each of their faces. I don’t think they were expecting someone to actually call them out on their behaviour and then their empty threats and challenges. They didn’t say another word to me or the man, and got off two stops later. The rest of the trip home proved to be uneventful but the truth is that what I did was incredibly stupid. Had the girls actually decided that they wanted a fight, my pride would have obligated me to get off the bus and defend my challenge. And even though growing up with three siblings taught me a few things about fighting, I would have inevitably been beaten. Despite the fact that the girls were only fifteen, it was four against one and two of them both outweighed me by fifteen odd kilos. It was only fortunate that they were bluffing, or I’d have been a dead man. Or at the very least, a somewhat sore man. Woman. Whatever.
The trouble is that real life isn’t anything like comic books and having a hero complex can get you into some pretty serious bother. Helping your fellow man has become an exercise in futility. If you don’t help, someone else is going to get hurt and if you do help, chances are that you will. It’s no wonder so few people are willing to intervene when they see someone in trouble. It’s a sad world where fifteen year old girls are that cruel, catching the bus is something to be wary of and being a good person can actually have a negative outcome, but unfortunately this is the world we’re living in. And as awful as it sounds, I have had many similar bus experiences where I’ve done nothing, lest I draw the unwanted attention of the wrong people and end up on the business end of a paid of fists intent on breaking a few bones (hey, I wasn’t kidding when I said I catch a bad bus).
I don’t make a habit of coming to the defence of strangers because I’m not very big and if it came to a physical confrontation, I don’t know that I’d actually be able to put up much of a fight. Exercise in futility and all that. What I do know however, is that the sooner I have the means to get my licence, the better. And in the meantime, perhaps I should start carrying a can of mace spray. Or maybe just a mace. Because nothing says “I’m tough, don’t fuck with me” like a heavy spiked ball on a chain.