Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Routemaster Conductor


Have you ever met a person who you still remember after many years, even though you hardly ever communicated with them?

In 1987/88 I attended a secretarial course at Pitman College in London. The building (nowadays occupied by St. Giles College) was situated in Southampton Row, opposite of Russell Square. I had basically two options to get from West Norwood (near Crystal Palace), where my temporary home was, to the college. One was by rail and tube, the other one by a direct bus service which came past the closest bus stop to my home and dropped me off right in front of the college building. Very often this bus was an old Routemaster – instead of buttons to press when you wanted to get off you had to pull a thin rope which ended in the driver’s cabin and had a little bell at its end. I liked this bus! And I liked the bus conductor who was in the old bus on this early morning tour, and who always had a friendly smile for the tired passengers heading for work. He reminded me of pictures of Santa Claus with his friendly face and white beard and also his body shape. Instead of a bus conductor’s cap he wore a giant turban on his head, because he was a Sikh. The turban was blue, matching the colour of his uniform. In front of his quite huge belly he had one of these old ticket machines which had to be operated entirely by hand. He didn’t need it very often as most people travelling on the bus at that time of day were regular passengers heading for work, school or college. I had my one month Travelcard (it was long before the introduction of the Oystercard) with me, so all he ever said to me was his quiet and polite “Thank you” when I showed it to him as required.

I have come across so many people in London in that year, but this elderly bus conductor (actually, I found it impossible to estimate his age) is one of a few stuck in my mind until this day. I don’t know if he is still alive (probably not), but he would certainly be surprised that someone in Germany still remembers him after all those years :)

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