Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Front Row Foreigners

I found a seat upstairs on a busy bus, my knees poking into the aisle. A baby was screaming below. Relentless and mind-numbing, it was enough to silence most of the passengers. How do they make such a powerful, aching noise? It’s a wonder of creation, it really is; few other sounds even come close. I’m pretty sure when the baby’s mine I won’t feel quite such a strong desire to put as much distance between me and it as possible, at least I hope.

The front row was occupied by token ‘front-row foreigners’. It is an unmistakable phenomenon of the 43 bus that the front row seats are nearly always occupied by people speaking a language other than English. When they talk, they talk loudly, safely aware of the linguistic ineptitude of their host country. Today’s representatives sat on a double seat each, managing a conversation while they stared out of opposite windows.
Not long ago I had been on a less busy bus, in the second row back, and I was puzzled by a passenger in front of me who appeared to be talking aggressively to himself in a tongue I didn’t recognise. Every few minutes or so he would mumble something, but he never ceased gazing out of the window. I thought perhaps our rainy grey climate had driven him mad. Then, after about 20 minutes, a person I hadn’t even noticed on the other side of the bus mumbled something in the same language and they both laughed. Neither made any physical movements to suggest they were communicating, but the synchronized laugh was unmistakable. Wierd.


Blogger piccadillywilson said...

Hey Gee Jay - I just have to let you know that '43' has become my fave blog on the planet - I'm actually getting hooked! I'm also in the middle of reading a book called 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox - subtitle 'The hidden rules of English behaviour'. It has a section on 'Public Transport Rules' which you woujld love ;-)

11:43 pm  
Blogger Geoff said...

Thanks Matt, I've heard it's an interesting book, i'll make sure i get my hands on a copy. I'll be posting more about the pervasive and persistant Rules Of the Bus, and might experiment a bit with breaking some of them.

7:44 am  
Blogger JohnB said...

I have seen those "front row foreigners" before...I spotted them with cell phones...

5:00 pm  

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