COLUMN: September 22, 2016


I WENT to the newsagent’s to renew my monthly bus ticket. This is always a source of conflict for me. On the one hand, I understand that I would save money on bus fares over the month by paying in advance.

On the other hand, what if something happened to me which would prevent me from taking enough bus journeys in the month to justify the initial outlay? What if I won a car, or I died after being hit by a bus wing mirror, or there was a nuclear apocalypse? That would be typical.

Of course, after I had paid the surcharge for using my debit card to buy my ticket in a newsagent’s – 50p to use a card in a shop in 2016 – I bimbled towards the bus stop, whether I wanted to or not. How else was I going to make inroads into my investment?

And there in the bus stop was displayed an advertisement recommending that I buy the very ticket I had just purchased. It was illustrated with a photograph of a young, unthreatening, ethnically-diverse bunch.

This gang would not play videos of auto-tuned singers on their phones on the bus, unlike every other group of youthful bus passengers I have encountered in the past eight years. Nevertheless, I hated them, obviously, with their haircuts and their enthusiasm and their lives stretching ahead of them.

But that was as naught compared with my anger towards the words which accompanied the picture. “Cut out the need for photo ID and buy one or more Mega tickets on your Wibble card, leaving you more time to have a laugh with your mates.” I have changed the names of the tickets because I do not want this column to show up on a Google search and give them extra publicity.

It is not the first time I have seen a poster which suggests travelling on public transport is a source of unlimited mirth. My local train provider recently ran an ad depicting a carriage filled with, variously, a woman singing karaoke, a man DJing, a string quartet, a chef cooking, and a hen party. Underneath was the slogan “Great Nights Out Start On The Train.”

That is not a great night out, that is the result of a fire alarm at Blackpool Tower, or ITV’s Saturday night schedule. It is certainly not a great train journey.

But what is this bus poster nonsense, this “leaving you more time to have a laugh with your mates?”

What sort of young person will see that advert and think: “Well, yes, having more LOLZ with my friends is exactly the sort of thing to which I aspire. As God is my witness, I WILL buy this season ticket – which, by the way, is the only type of bus season ticket available now – and achieve my ambition, no matter how marginal the effect?”

For how much time is the travel authority suggesting will be made available for mate-orientated ribaldry as a result of buying this season ticket? Why is this not quantified? There should be an asterisk after “more time” and some small print at the bottom of the poster stating: “On average, 28 minutes more LMAOs and LOLZ over 35 years, assuming 10 journeys per week. That’s roughly 0.7 extra HAHAs a day.”

Also, I am not sure the travel authority should be encouraging raucous behaviour on buses. Buses are not fun places to be, like nightspots or Methodist youth clubs or wherever youngsters congregate these days. Buses are for quiet and despairing reflection on where you are going and how your life has come to this.

But the worst thing about this statement is that it is not true, certainly not for me. Back in the olden days, about a year ago, I had a conventional pass, what I would dub The Classic. It had a terrible picture of me on it, and the expiry date clearly stamped, and I wafted on and off buses like Rihanna or the late Sir David Frost might saunter into Claridge’s.

Now I have lost my VIP status and have to queue up with people who pay their fare with 43 different coins, and teenagers, leaving me with even LESS time to “have a laugh with my mates”, if only I had some.

I calculate I have lost an average four minutes a week, and 50p a month, because of the Great Bus Pass Switch Caper. And that is no laughing matter.

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