I’ve been experimenting life without a Travelcard for the last 12 months. Tickets purchased as and when I need them. At first it was an admirable attempt to work out whether an annual Travelcard actually would cost me less - but I stopped counting after the first few days - and I’ve been buying tickets e v e r y day - ever since.
Bus, Tube, Tube, Bus. I don’t know how I put up will all that scrabbling around for bus change in my hallway, or missing the bus due to having to shop for something useless like chewing gum to get change. (You should see how many unopened packets of Wrigley’s Extra I have in my pockets - now you know why it’s the number 1 selling sweet brand in the UK.) Queueing up behind millions of slow tourists at the ticket machines in Ham. The infuriating “No Change Given” signs - or the Underground staff who sit behind those glass screens and make it their business to guarantee that you’re going to miss the next train.
Tonight I thought what the hell - I had enough coinage to buy a tube ticket - but not quite enough change to buy a bus ticket at the other end. I was 8p short. I really couldn’t be bothered to queue up at the shops around the tube station - and the shops at the other end at this time of the day are usually shuttered up and deserted - so no chance of an extra Extra to add to my pile in return for some bus change. Not without a long walk away from the bus stop anyway. So - I set myself a challenge: “Jag - you have around 20 minutes to find yourself 8p to make up your bus fare home - without breaking into that crispy tenner”.
Aha - coins at the bottom of my rucksack - there’s bound to be some in there. Spent the entire 20 minute tube ride to Alperton fumbling around with the contents of my rucksack in order to locate those coins in the dark, lonely corners of my bag. Gotcha! But - only a 2p and a 1p. I was feeling motivated. Now I needed 5p. Preferably a 5p coin.
Gave up on the bag. Got to the bus stop - and started staring at the floor. The pavement. Walking up and down the street - eyes scanning every square centimetre of pavement - knowing that I just had to spot the cheeky glint of a dropped 5p coin somewhere. I had done it before - around a year ago - me and my little boy: down our local high street one Saturday morning. Only had enough money to buy one doughnut. 5p more would have bought us 2. So we walked up and down the high street searching for 5p - and within 10 minutes we found one! I will never forget the sheer and utter excitement at this. We didn’t stop talking about it for days. We developed a theory: it takes less than 10 minutes to find an unwanted 5p coin on the street - wherever you go.
I had less than 10 minutes - bus was going to be here any minute now - and I was getting frantic. Began to get noticed by the folks standing at the bus stop. Why is this bloke doing a funny sort of walk up and down the street with his head down? They probably thought I was looking for the butts of discarded cigarettes. I felt stupid - and was resigning myself to giving up. I just wanted to get home.
I spotted my bus in the distance. That’s it - I’ve missed it now - the nearest open shop is half a mile away - and I’m never going to get change quickly enough to get that bus. The sheer disappointment was gouging further into me the closer my bus got to the stop.
And then - like an act of God that left me dumbfounded, but pounding heart - I saw it. It was almost as if a blinding ray of holy light had beamed down from the heavens to guide me to my treasure during my moment of utter need. Lying there - nestled in a shallow crevice between the bus stop pole and the kerbside was the unmistakeable glint of the coin I was after. I quickly rescued it from the grit - brushed aside the dirt and checked that it wasn’t some foriegn currency trying an eleventh-hour deception on me. Nope - it was exactly what I had hoped:
ELIZABETH II - D.G.REG.F.D - FIVE PENCE
1998 vintage. The Queen sure does look great when you need her.
I proudly presented my fare - took my ticket - and treated myself to the front seat on the empty top deck.
- It is my destiny to be riding this bus home.
- I am the king of all I survey.
- This is my domain - and I am invincible.
Posted by jag at May 27, 2003 10:09 PM