I can has daysaver? Bus culture online
Buses aren't the most romantic form of transport, or at least aren't romanticised. Car driving gets the Route 66 treatment, the concept of "the road movie" and any number of soft rock classics, trains get Brief Encounter, Night Mail and er, Jimmy Saville. Ask anyone to name a piece of culture about a bus -- Summer Holiday and funny looks are all you'll get.
I think it's something to do with the bus being the middle ground, not the romantic freedom of the car, nor the regimented closeness of the long distance train. Buses are always just that one step up from Shank's pony, and bus stops don't get names so there's isn't even a Mornington Crescent type game to play.
We didn't have a car when I was a kid, and for one reason or another I'm just not bothered by them, trains were always expensive (they were competing with the fabled 2p fares on the bus, remember) and still to me seem a middle class way of travelling I'm not totally comfortable with. So buses are where it's at for me culturally, not that I get aroused by a shapely MCW Metrobus or even a Gardner engined Daimler Fleetline (I am however quietly obsessed with the 11 route, the local network in general and harbour fine memories of the tracline 65).
The interweb, of course, is nothing if not home to the nichest of niche content so, along with the bus-spotting and the tiny sites I've made that track people using twitter on the bus, there is something genuinely interesting and bus-related happening.
TWMDriver's blog is a blog by an anonymous (the routes have been changed to protect the innocent) bus driver working in Birmingham, and it fast became one of my favourite sites. He (or she) gives a fascinating look behind the wheel and inside the garage, railing at bad behaviour from car drivers, amused by odd behaviour by passengers ("he slept the whole way there even over the speed humps"), but always striving to give the best service. It's genuinely heartening to read someone who cares so much about what is after all a difficult public service job.
It's very well written, and reminds me a lot of one of Britain's best blogs Random Acts of Reality by Tom Reynolds (also a pseudonym) which is a blog about the work of a London Ambulance man, very well respected and a was turned into a book to high praise (TWMDriver, when you've been doing this for six months, let's talk book). This type of blog is in a sense closest to the dreadful "like an online diary" clichÃÂ© that our traditional media use to 'explain' blogging (often very wrongly), but the diary format helps give character to those doing work that we might otherwise ignore.
You can imagine Travel West Midlands or the London Ambulance Service, or any big organisation, being nervous about staff blogs, but to deny the communication opportunities they offer would be very wrong. When I first came across TWMDriver's blog I was nervous about sharing it, thinking that if it came to the attention of the buses' bosses then it would quickly be banned. Thankfully a much more enlightened regime exists, which is great because better publicity for the company it would be difficult to find. In these days when Post Offices and even Doctors' Surgeries carry signs asking for "respect" (that dreadful word) for the people working there, nothing can be more likely to engender empathy than knowing what those on the other side of the ticket machine go through.
There's even a regular section where you can have your questions answered by the driver, a boyhood dream no longer frightened of the "passengers must not: distract the driver" notice (I'd bring those signs back, "spit, leave litter, allow dogs on seats, play radios or cassette machines" how many more can you remember?).
So, go and enjoy the ride, and don't forget to say "thank you" to the driver (apparently only a Birmingham thing).