Article originally written for and published on http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk
I’ve always felt that the night buses of Manchester offer a fascinating glimpse into the weird and wonderful after-dark inhabitants of the city. Sometimes shameful, sometimes endearing, sometimes hilarious, but most of the times I’ve got on a Manchester night bus, there’s never been a dull journey for the ardent rubbernecking passenger.
After a gig at the Apollo and with the heavens dutifully opening, the approaching 192 back towards Piccadilly Gardens seemed a great opportunity to avoid the rain and rediscover old delight.
Upstairs there was a fairly standard after-gig audience lolling around. Amongst whom was group of drunken girls a couple of rows in front clumsily howling their favourite song of the gig, a group of chaps to the left having a serious debate about the band being much better live. Disappointing there seemed no obvious contenders for a bizarre incident.
So we begin to discuss the gig ourselves, “I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them really, I think…” “RAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPPHHHHHH’ came a sudden blood curdling bellow from the two lads in front as one of them released a powerful stream of vomit tapering through his emergency (one-second-too-late) hand cover.
In my impish excitement at trying to locate who would be the one to illuminate the journey, half hoping for Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy to come shouting his way up the stairs, I’d failed to notice the couple of lads directly in front. They were about eighteen, fairly scally and I’d foolishly failed to see the telling head-drooping of the one sat by the window.
His last ditch attempt to cover his mouth had, fortunately, sent most of his produce down the back of the seat in front, but a rogue stream had funnelled in between the top of the seat and the handle, down the back of the drunken singing girls. The one directly in front was wearing a little lacy blouse.
“Eeeeeewww, Oh. My. Goooood!”, she squealed as she jumped up, craning round to assess the inevitable damage, her friends jumped up showing transparently false empathy, ‘thank God that was you, not me’, written on each of their faces.
“Bail! Get off the bus!” said the vomiter, frantically nudging his isle-blocking, equally drunk friend. After a couple of seconds of his drunken friend processing the information, they both sprang up and scampered down the isle impressively pressing each STOP button along the way.
Feeling like I’d had my night bus fill for the evening, I kicked back. With my mind adrift, I suddenly snapped back into the room as I became aware of a bizarre argument brewing on the seats directly behind. Jackpot. I’ll call them Carol and Phillip. (I’ve made few changes in the interests of, well, decency).
Heaven is a bus. And hell. Life is a blur.
Carol: I was waiting there for you for like, twenty minutes outside the toilets.
Phillip: It was loud, I thought you said meet outside, I now know you said meet at the toilets. We both have mobiles. We met, its fine, isn’t it?
Carol: That’s just typical. You don’t give a shit do you? Oh ‘whatever’, ‘wherever’, you don’t care. At all.
Phillip: Look, why are you kicking off for no reason? We met, we’re here, it’s fine.
(Seems reasonable, again).
Carol: You’re just so patronising and I’m sick of it.
Phillip: Patronising? Why? What did I say?
Carol: It’s not what you said, it’s your hand gestures.
Phillip: What? My hand gestures? What are you going on about?
(I was wracking my brain trying to think of any hand gesture which could be construed as so infuriatingly patronising.)
Carol: I’m sick of it. I’d have been Head of Department now if it wasn’t for you patronising me, I’m sick of it!
Phillip: What are you on about? Why aren’t you Head of Department? Oh yea, cos you cocked it up, didn’t you?
Carol: Yea, I fucked it up because…..stop doing that patronising thing with your hands, I hate it, and you’re even doing it now!
(Frantically, I’m trying to turn my head enough to catch a reflection of Philip’s condescending trotters.)
Phillip: I thought you were done with all this, when I took you back again last time. But here we are, you giving me shit again for no reason.
(Took her back again? I’m thinking this isn’t a first-time occurrence. Poor Phillip, but he should have considered his patronising hands more.)
Carol: I’m just sick of you patronising me with your hands.
Phillip: Let just get off the bus before you make a show of us.
Before? Like the chucking-uppie brothers before them they sprung up and shuffled down the aisle, pausing only to shoot a scathing glance back at the giggling passengers helplessly trying not to stare.
In the space of a ten minute trip back into town, there was magnificent drama for the rubbernecker and I felt my point had been well and truly made about the follies of the Manchester night bus. Magnificent. The cheapest, most honest entertainment around.