Anyone who’s ever been keen on British comedy will run into the Nutter on the Bus. Jasper Carrott’s sketch is probably the most famous, but you’ll find references to this sort of thing in various places. Like this, for example. And since I’m probably a borderline case myself at times, I have a soft place in my heart for nutters. Enough that I was once given a T-shirt with the wording:
Nutter – noun; a crazy or eccentric person. See Madman.
So having a Nutter experience on a bus is on my list of things to tick off at some stage in my time here. Unfortunately, I don’t travel by bus that often, tending to find the train more practical. And there are never nutters on the train. But this week, my bicycle has been sidelined for some repairs to make it stop going click-crick-creak at each pedal. And the S7 bus route has recently been expanded to take it far enough to leave but a 10 minute walk from my office.
As an aside, I like taking the bus. This one in particular – as it takes a winding tour through Dickens Heath, Tidbury Green and Hollywood before ending up in Wythall. It’s a 25-minute ride plus a 10 minute walk for something that takes me 15 minutes to cycle. But I get a bit of reading done, and I’m usually the only person on the bus. Interestingly, I’ve found that Cory Doctorow is the perfect reading companion for public transport. It does take me a while to get through his books, but the locale certainly adds something to the flavour of his stories. For some reason, I struggle to become engrossed in them anywhere else.
Now that the scene is set rather elaborately, we can get to the crux of the matter. On my trip home yesterday evening, I had a nutter on my bus. He got on at the Maypole, but not without a bit of theatre first. He asked the driver whether the bus goes past Aqueduct Road. Or rather, he mumbled something incoherently, got the response “Eh?”, did it again, getting “I’m sorry, mate, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”. He then spoke loudly, and slowly, “Does… this… bus… go… past… Aqueduct… Road”. very much like your average American tourist in China, where speaking louder allows the hearer to translate an unknown language with considerably more success.
Anyway, the driver says “No”, and the nutter says “Never mind, I’ll take you anyway”, and proceeds to board, sitting on the seat across the aisle from me. He was wearing an old faded baseball cap (although “wearing” is perhaps putting it a bit strongly, as there was room for a small pet between the top of his head and the top of his hat). His glasses were lopsided, and were as thick as a psychiatry textbook. He had a plastic shopping bag in his hands (one handle in each, which made for an unusual gait), and was spending quite a bit of time looking intently into it. It didn’t appear to contain much. He was talking softly to himself, under his breath.
About half a mile down the road, the bus slows to a halt in order to turn right into Peterbrook road. This caused the nutter some significant consternation. He starts talking audibly to himself now. “No, it shouldn’t go that way. The bus mustn’t. It can’t go that way. No, no, no. Mustn’t go that way”.
The oncoming traffic clears a bit, and the bus lurches off, veering to the right and speeds up. The nutter leaps to his feet, the litany of disbelief getting louder now. He hits the Stop button, the bus comes to a halt at the first bus stop past the corner (about 100 yds), and he exits. (Not, in this instance, pursued by a bear).
I have to admit that he wasn’t a top grade nutter. There weren’t any camels, no atom bombs, and no corned beef tins. He was only on the bus for about 5 minutes. But he’s a start.
Good enough to tick that box.