Monday, 31 January 2011

Driver #12850

Saturday, January 29th and a trip to Oxford United's soulless, three-sided Ikea-esque excuse for a ground; the Kassam Stadium. It really is awful - windswept, exposed and utterly devoid of character. Still, us Cheltonians forgot all that - and the Arctic conditions - when super Wesley Thomas scored from a sublime lob to give us the lead.

Incidentally - super, I'm pretty sure, is the only adjective that's solely the preserve of football fans (possibly commentators, too) and uber camp males.

Before the Wesley-triggered euphoria, though, I had to endure the number 5 bus journey from Oxford station to the Kassam. The journey goes to Blackbird 'are you Gloucester in disguise?' Leys via the picturesque city centre, so I was quite looking forward to taking in some of Oxford's famed splendour en route.

What I hadn't braced myself for was driver 12850 of Oxford Bus Company. Having cheerfully asked her which stop I should get off at for the football ground, provided this was the correct route, she mumbled something inaudible with a face of thunder: "Blublule" was all I heard - which, on reflection, was probably Blackbird Leys.

Asking her again, politely, for confirmation of the stop after her initial muffled response, she replied sternly: "Ask the driver." This threw me slightly. She was sitting in the bus driver's seat, holding a steering wheel and working pedals with her feet. As far as bus drivers go, she was ticking all the right boxes. 

"Oh, are you not the driver?" I replied, half jokingly, half worried that my perception of reality had become warped and that I had been living in a largely-pleasant dream world for 25 years.

This exchange wasn't going anywhere. She failed to recognise my half joke or empathise with my new-found confused existence. Scared of holding up the other passengers, I asked for a return and that was it, we were off, heading into the unknown.

Two stops later and a boy of about 15 climbs aboard and asks for a return to the Kassam Stadium. My heart sinks. There he is, all alone; a sprightly, innocent football devotee about to have his Saturday ruined by the bus driver equivalent of a hungry, fight-starved Rottweiler whose tail has been squashed by a cat-shaped anvil.

She erupts. "You're not 15!" The boy is terrified. I am too scared to look up. From what I can see, though, he is the most obvious-looking 15-year-old I have ever laid eyes on. Reluctantly accepting his inflated fare fate, he coughs up the extra few pennies to pay for his adult return ticket - precisely the type I had stumped up for.

Only it isn't a return ticket at all. The boy sits directly in front of me, glances at his ticket and realises he's only been given a single. "Excuse me," he politely says to the bus driver with an obvious I'm-shitting-myself face, "I asked for a return." 


Alright, you sour-faced sex-starved Lembit Opik lookalike, I thought to myself (I obviously didn't say this out loud - she would have force-fed me the ticket machine so that the next passenger buying a single to Witney would have to remove their ticket from my rear end), before sinking back into my chair and looking out of the window at happy Japanese people taking photographs of university buildings.

Fortunately, we arrived at the stadium OK and shared awkward small talk with said 15 year-old, who showed us all the way to the away end, where my beloved Cheltenham played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with those Oxford bastards.

Pic credit: net_efekt


  1. I'm glad you made it ;) I loved reading this.

  2. This is a great story! Both touching and funny!