Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What was the meaning of this event?

Like a herd of sheep?
I had to go into Glasgow yesterday, just to take proof of my ID into a building society. I arrived on the X74 shortly before 2pm, went and did the ID thing and returned to the coach station to catch the 3pm X74 home to Moffat. There was a great crowd of people waiting to board the coach at Bay 5 when I turned up at 14.50. As more and more people continued to join the group, I became aware, as one does, that there was no underlying WWII ethos of an orderly queue. I began vaguely to worry that there were more people than seats on the bus. I wondered what the coach company policy was in that event. Would I just have to wait for three hours for the next coach at 6pm? The coach doors remained closed. Eventually at 3.10pm, ten minutes after the coach should have left,  I turned to two young women standing behind me and wondered out loud if someone should go and find out what had happened to the driver. A large man in an official yellow safety jacket had patrolled past and been approached but had replied that it was nothing to do with him. One of the young women said that one risked 'losing one's place'. 'Maybe if I go you could keep me a place?' I said. She agreed, and I headed off down towards the main building. As I went, I reviewed in my mind's eye the layout of the coach station, changed my mind and veered off into the arrival yard where three or four men were directing coaches as they arrived into the right bays. Seeing me advancing, as if across the landing runway of an airport, one of the men in yellow jackets waved me back, and I stopped, beckoning him to come to me. I explained that the driver of our coach had not turned up. He immediately switched on his walkie-talkie and a call reverberated round the whole area for the driver of the X74 to report immediately to the coach. Inside the coach, towards the back, a figure rose and took his seat at the controls. Our driver had been 'resting' inside. My thoughts on this episode were: it would be helpful to travellers' blood pressure if a system were installed to allow people as they arrive to take a numbered ticket showing which order they arrived in. Some respectable-looking older people barged in front of me to board the bus. If we had had a ticket I would have been able to say to them politely 'what is your number ?' Last but by no means least: how long would the crowd have waited before anyone went to discover where the driver was had I not done so? No-one commented on his being found to be on the coach, but one man dressed in army camouflage with an NHS crutch explained to me, showing me his bus pass as if I might report him to some unknown authority, that it had expired that day but he had been unable to renew it because he had had an appointment at the hospital. The general impression was a curious mixture of the benign: compassionate fellow-feeling (it could happen to anyone) and the less favourable: a herd-like indifference, and reluctance to stick one's head above the parapet. The outing ended on a happy note - I sat next to someone from Dumfries and we chatted all the way to Moffat. She told me that the 'Devil's Porridge' visitor centre http://www.devilsporridge.co.uk is well worth a visit - and I told her that there had been an announcement at the arts hubs meeting in Dalbeattie last Fri Sept 21 that the attraction has been given a large grant to be improved and extended. I was also able to tell her that Moffat Mill is planning a redevelopment of their present site to include an upmarket retail 'outlet' similar to Gretna but better in Moffat by this time next year.

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