Magazine article The Spectator

People Who Scream on Buses Need Looking After-But Not by Me

Magazine article The Spectator

People Who Scream on Buses Need Looking After-But Not by Me

Article excerpt

Where does the Big Society stand on the screamers on the bus? We had one the other day. It was during the rush hour, and I was late to pick up my daughter from the nursery. It was a big lady, heavily upholstered in beige, dragging a trolley almost the same size which was upholstered in tartan. The bus jolted, she almost fell, and we all rushed to help her, like David Cameron surely reckons we're supposed to. That should have been that. The next time the bus stopped, though, she was off up the aisle, trolley battering through plenty of people older and fatter than her, to shriek at the driver. Leave it, love, said some. It's busy, he didn't mean it, no harm done, we all want to get home.

But she was a screamer. Poor woman.

None of us had realised. All around the bus, you could see, passengers were listening, noting that her grievances were not entirely bus-based, and letting themselves clang shut.

We were all enemies, even those of us who'd helped her up. The bus stopped and sank with a sigh, the doors opened, and commuters stared at their feet or out the window, bleakly revising their short-term plans. And suddenly, through the shouting, and with a jolt, I realised that Margaret Thatcher might have had a point.

'Any man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus, ' she genuinely once said, 'can count himself as a failure.' Her position on my screamer would have been clear and coherent, even if unhelpful. That screamer wasn't society's problem, in her view, but mine. I'll be 34 in a couple of months. I'm a failure. Screamers are just what you get.

John Major would have cared about my screamer on the bus, but only to the extent of setting up a phoneline whereby those exposed to screamers on buses could complain about them. Alas, only screamers on buses would ever have called it. 'Tough on screamers, ' Tony Blair would have said, 'tough on the causes of screamers.' Maybe he'd have invited some to No. 10 for a cocktail party with Noel Gallagher. Appointed a Screamer Tsar. There would have been special Asbos for screamers on the bus, and other Asbos for people who cracked and screamed back. That might actually have helped, but it's a strategy strictly for a boom.

Gordon Brown would have thrown more money at the problem, nonetheless. Bus screamer tax credits? Whole special buses for the screamers on the bus? That sort of thing.

He'd probably have published figures showing that screamers on bus quotas had declined in real terms, but all of us, even the screamers on buses, would know this was a lie. …

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