A ‘favoured’ passenger

A ‘favoured’ passenger

It was more convenient for me to take a bus than a train for my frequent inter-city travels. Sometimes, there would be a long line in front of the ticket booth. But the man who issued tickets for deluxe buses was always considerate. After catching sight of me in the line, I would receive a nod, meaning that I could occupy seat No 9 as agreed upon. His assistant would collect the money from me and promptly bring the ticket and the change.

Once his job of issuing tickets was done, the man behind the counter would enter the bus for a final check. In case anyone claimed that advance booking entitled him to occupy seat No 9, the ticket-issuer would firmly direct him to an alternative seat. His writ prevailed. I never did get the name of my benefactor and I doubt whether he knew anything about me except that I was a Mysore-bound passenger. 

I rarely travelled by bus within the city. On one occasion, I found that the conductor kept evading my outstretched hand which held the fare. He didn’t issue a ticket throughout the journey. On alighting at the terminal, when I accosted him he said, “How can I collect money from officers like you?” So, I wasn’t anonymous!

My inter-city journeys were not always happy experiences. The seats on the ordinary buses were not spacious enough to accommodate two adults. And if one of them decided to be the proverbial camel in the tent, the other would get squeezed out. Once, while trying to move away from persistent and wanton encroachment, I had reached the very edge of the seat and would have tumbled out, but for the pole to which I clung on. An observant co-passenger came up and said, “You can sit next to my wife.” I was overwhelmed by his gesture.

I thought I had hit upon a clever solution: buy two tickets, and use the extra space on the seat for the bag containing food items my mother had packed. But the conductor had other ideas. In the seat in the last row earmarked for the conductor, he placed another passenger while he settled himself comfortably into the seat I had paid for, after moving my bag to the overhead rack! I had to think of another strategy from then onwards. I started placing a good-sized handbag between me and the adjacent passenger. The message was clear.

Speaking of strategies, I was outwitted by a woman passenger once. I always favour the window seat. Soon after the bus had crossed the city limits, this lady said ominously, “I’d better sit by the window. Just in case.” When asked to move back to her seat, the ‘just in case’ refrain continued all through the journey. Such resourcefulness eludes me.

My best journeys were on a private bus. Leaving after office hours and arriving at the terminal close to our house and be received by my mother was most convenient. Besides, I could occupy the only single seat right in the front, with a clear view of the road ahead.