Thursday, 11 March 2010
Picture the scene:
You are in Manchester on a Saturday night at around 11:30 pm. You have been to the theatre or a rock concert, or maybe even out for a couple of beers with mates. You have a desperate need to reacquaint yourself with your lovely bed and are seeking the best way to achieve this.
What are the options?
If you haven’t driven and you live in South Manchester, there are two options: either you take a cab or you catch “The Nutty Bus”.
Cabs in Manchester are quite expensive, particularly the black ones, and on a Saturday night, the price increases even more. If you are with a group of people it can be cost effective; however, if you are on your own it may not be a good option, particularly since, at that time of night, finding a cab can be tricky, since everybody wants one and the queues at the taxi ranks can sometimes be quite long.
Manchester is blessed by an all night bus service, the frequency of which depends on the area you wish to go to. If, like me, you are heading out towards the university and beyond, then you can guarantee that a bus will arrive within ten to fifteen minutes. You can also guarantee that it will be full of pissed nutters – hence the reason why I call it “the Nutty Bus”.
I have had several bizarre experiences on the Nutty Bus, one or two have been quite worrying, but most are very entertaining.
Sadly, one of my first journeys on the Nutty Bus with Mrs PM was a worrying one. Downstairs on the bus was full so we climbed upstairs and found two seats next to each other. Even upstairs it was so full that people were standing in the aisle. In particular, three guys appeared, who were about my about my age and they were all absolutely leathered, so much so that they could barely stand.
One of them was happy – deliriously happy. When he saw that, as usual, the bulk of the passengers were students.
“I love students, me!” he declared, smiling at all the young people around. “You are our FUTURE! You are the future of this country! I LOVE YOU ALL! You will make Britain GREAT again”
Lots of people, including me smiled at this inebriated buffoon. Sadly, three skinheads at the back of the bus for some reason took exception to his words. One particularly brutish looking thug stood up, pushed his way past the people in the aisle, stood in front of the drunken buffoon and shouted “I AIN’T NO FRACKIN’ STUDENT!” and then promptly punched him in the face, drawing blood and shattering the poor guy's glasses. Nobody could believe what happened.
And, of course, mayhem ensued.
The victim’s two mates tried retaliate pushing past their fallen comrade to get to the thug. The thugs two skinhead mates came up from the rear to act as reinforcements. The bus was packed so it was difficult for these two small armies to get to each other. Both parties started shoving innocent bystanders out of the way and and fists started to fly as bodies were pushed aside; at one point somebody was being pushed on top of me so, in a bid to get Mrs PM and myself away from the disturbance, I looked around frantically for a free seat – and spotted one at the back of the bus. I grabbed Mrs PM’s hand we somehow managed to escape the fracas.
People were shouting, women were screaming and eventually a few people dragged the three drunken middle aged men downstairs. It was then that I realised whose seats we were sitting in – the skinheads’ seats.
The one who had caused the fight sat next to me and shouted to his mates “Oi dun ‘im! D’ya see that? Frackin’ student loving bastid!!”
I just sat there like a lemon gripping Mrs PM’s hand as the meathead boasted about what a fantastic mindless thug he was.
Thankfully the thug was so caught up praising his own mindless brutality that he ignored us. We only had to wait five minutes before these savage nutters left us and the rest of the bus in peace.
I have to say that this is the only violence I have ever seen on the Nutty Bus. Almost every other time has been very entertaining and sometimes very weird.
For example, I had been out for a beer in the city with a couple of mates and found myself on the Nutty Bus, sitting downstairs listening to my mp3 player. The bus was getting full and there was a free seat next to me. A youngish lad sat down and his girlfriend looked around for another seat. Finding none available, she sat on his knee at right angles and then leaned back lying across both him and me – with her head in my lap looking up at me.
I had never seen this girl before in my life and there she was, smiling up at me as if her position was absolutely normal. Her boyfriend was oblivious and almost unconscious.
She started speaking to me. I pulled off my headphones and she said
“Hello there! Where have you been tonight?”
“Er – just to the pub with a couple of mates,” I said feeling really uncomfortable.
And we had a weird conversation, this young girl staring up from my lap with her boyfriend almost comatose beside me. It was surreal and I wonder what the rest of the passengers thought. Those at the back may have thought I was talking to my own crotch.
If that’s not bizarre enough, on another occasion I was chatted up by a girl who was young enough to be my daughter. There I was sitting next to her when the bus gradually emptied. I didn’t say a word, until she said:
“This is awkward, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well the bus is almost empty, so I’m thinking should I move to an empty seat or stay here next to you?”
“And do you know what I’m going to do?”
“I’m going to stay next to you because you’re really nice. Do you read the Guardian?”
And we had a conversation about all sorts of weird things before she left. I thought she was going to ask for my phone number but thankfully she didn't.
I’ve also been part of a drunken duo that has entertained the rest of the bus. Well, when I say part of a drunken duo, I mean I have been sitting next to a drunken mate, who shall remain nameless (but you know who you are) but who has suddenly mutated into a madman, singing the praises of William Shatner’s singing techniques (amongst other things) to an appreciative and chuckling audience. I was the straight guy and I must admit even that was amusing because I was laughing at his drunken banter and the attempts of those around us desperately trying to stifle their own laughter.
In fact, some of the funniest conversations I have heard have been on the Nutty Bus. I’ve struggled not to explode with laughter myself.
I’ve seen guys, full of Dutch courage, desperate to chat up that elusive female at the end of the night, raiding the very bowels of the chat-up line phrase book as they frantically offer to walk the girl home.
“It’s dangerous around here! I’ll look after you. You’re an angel and I can’t let anybody harm a feather on your head – er – I mean a hair on your feather - erm - a hair on your head - I mean.”
“Good night, Dan – you are not walking me home. I don’t fancy you!”
The whole bus chuckled at the poor sap as he sat there totally embarrassed and humiliated having failed spectacularly. I’ve been there myself.
I’ve seen drunkards covered in vomit stagger onto the bus, only to be thrown off before they can collapse onto the floor.
I’ve seen a couple of terrified nuns sitting there as if they were surrounded by Satan’s most mischievous imps and praying that they arrive at their destination as quickly and safely as possible as hoards of drunk people flock around them, swearing, laughing and doing crazy things.
I’ve seen two lads hold an impromptu muscle man contest (vying for the title of "Mr Nutty Bus" I presume), stripping down to the waist and flexing their feeble muscles to each other and a giggling audience of passengers.
I’ve seen a bloke walk on the bus with a pizza and then drop it top down on the floor, screaming an almighty “SSHHHIIIIIITTTT!!!!” to mocking and unsympathetic laughter.
I’ve seen a whole bunch of sad individuals jump on a bus at half past midnight clutching their newly released copies of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and almost wetting themselves with enthusiasm; “I’m so excited! I’ve been queuing up for five hours; I’m going to read the WHOLE thing tonight! AND then I’m going to read it all AGAIN tomorrow! Yes – that’s the kinda guy I am! I’M MENTAL!!!” – you don’t say!
I’ve seen another lad fall down the stairs with a colossal McDonald’s soft drink yet somehow manage not to spill a drop – I wanted to applaud the guy but was too busy laughing.
And I have had some amazing conversations with people myself, some who are just drunk enough to still make sense, just inebriated enough to start a conversation with me and then lower their inhibitions enough to say ridiculous things.
The best people to talk to or listen to are students who have flown their parents’ nest for the first time and consider themselves to be experts on everything from politics to travel. I have to chuckle to myself when I hear two young students sitting in front of me and saying things like “I’ve travelled a hell of a lot you know – I’ve been to France AND Germany. I’m a seasoned traveller. I'm going to go to Italy next."
I just want to intervene and tell them all about my exploits. I don’t like stealing their thunder though; I get more enjoyment listening to a couple of eighteen year old students talking about how they are going to conquer the world and how “middle-aged people” (like me) are “clueless”.
Sadly, if Mrs PM and I find ourselves in the city on a Friday or Saturday night, she will insist on a cab – particularly after the skinhead incident. I try to tell her that this is a one-off (it happened around ten years ago now). I have been on the Nutty Bus many times over the years and that nasty incident is the only fight I have ever seen. I try to tell her that a trip on the Nutty Bus is almost as good as watching a comedy show. But she won’t have it. I don’t blame her really.
Anyway, if you are in Manchester at the end of lovely evening and opt to catch the Nutty Bus to the South Manchester area, you will find that it is very entertaining. If you do catch it, keep your eye out for a blond-haired middle-aged guy who looks young for his age – he will be listening intently to conversations around him and trying not to laugh.
It could just be me.