Thursday, February 25, 2010

#147: Good Golly Miss Molly

I love buzzwords, really I do. I’m utterly useless at them and as such I’m constantly in awe around people who can throw them out like they’re so much old socks. Hearing people talking about ballpark figures and refocused realignments just makes me shudder. At the end of the day a team player can impress me by thinking outside the box with a value added information-based vision statement. Excuse me while I now go all a-quiver. It’s like a new form of language, one that is only enhanced by a knowledge base that goes the extra mile. I know I’m out of the loop with buzz words, but still, once you peel back the onion and change your mindset, the added value of buzzwords is apparent.

I know that there are entire cottage industries devoted to the usage of buzzwords, and the paradox of it all is that flexible movers and shakers often see the big picture more than us simpletons. And good for them. Because often the people who use the most buzzwords are the most useless individuals on the face of the planet.

I’ve had the misfortune to work with practitioners and experts of buzzwords more than once over my career. Do they add value? By Cracky they do! They often provide some of the best amusement that you’ll ever have, and let’s face it, who amongst us hasn’t played Bullshit Bingo at least once in a strategic meeting? We all have, except for those who are standing in front of the room with a PowerPoint demonstration behind them sprouting more crap than a septic tank invaded by an army after a night on the beer and curry. Nothing rattles a Buzzworder* more than someone either giggling and poking their pals or actually yelling “BINGO!!” to a chorus of laughter during a meeting. The best practice for the Bullshit Bingo is to be customer driven – you, the customer, are entitled to the best service the service provider can offer, so why shouldn’t you yell? Why not indeed.

One of the best Buzzworders I ever worked with was hilarious. Let's call him Buzzworder. Buzzworder was as useless as white dog shit on a footpath and only half as attractive, they could fire off a dozen buzzwords a minute and were an endless source of jocularity in all meetings in which they attended. Even better the Buzzworder was completely oblivious to the source of any growing mirth and would merely stand there and grin like a man who has been released from a vow of celibacy and has just found a cheap hooker. Buzzworder would later tell me that people laughing during his presentations were a sign of respect, and also a sign that his own particular sense of humour was coming through and permeating the crowd. Buzzworder never fully understood that he *was* the joke, but then the joke was also on Buzzworder.

Not that it ever had any adverse affect upon him. Buzzworder had managed to successfully negotiate his path through an interview with the end result being employment in a field that he knew nothing about. Buzzworder had won the position over people who actually knew what the job was, how it was done and, more importantly, had actual experience and contacts within the chosen field. The position involved a large degree of cultural awareness, the fact that the he had absolutely zero understanding of the particular culture in question didn’t away him in the slightest. “I can easily fix that issue,” said Buzzworder to me when I expressed my amazement at his own self-confessed ignorance, “I can grab a few DVDs and there’s a documentary on the Cat People on SBS in a few weeks. The rest I can make up. I mean, how hard could it possibly be?” I didn’t dare tell him that the Cat People were amongst the most complex on the face of the planet, but then if I had it would have also have been casually dismissed.

Buzzworder’s greatest moment of sheer ignorance for me came when he shadowed me in an interview. The customer presenting was one of those repeat offenders who’s many issues around substance abuse had seen them evicted from almost every boarding house and flat group in the state. I couldn’t do much except give the lecture about the need for the customer, Mr Switchy, to keep up his current services with the Prince Aragorn Society. Switchy was insistent that he didn’t need to as he was, “…fuckin’ clean man, I don’t do that drug shit no more.” At this I rolled my eyes but Buzzworder leaned forward and grasped Switchy’s hands in his own. I was a bit taken aback as I made it a policy never to touch any such customer after seeing insects leap off one set of arms and hearing about the flesh eating diseases that another carried. Open weeping sores and dirt generally scare me off. But Buzzworder grabbed Switchy’s hands, moved forward and started deeply into his eyes. “Instead of making this a new year, why not make it your year instead!” I could almost hear underline in the word ‘your’. Seriously. Switchy couldn’t care less, het got what he wanted and quickly left.

I turned to Buzzworder and said, “What the hell was that about?” “Simple,” said Buzzworder, “the man obviously needs a break. I think he was telling the truth.” “How do you know when a drug addict is lying?” I asked. Buzzworder looked vacant. “Their mouths move. I’ve been dealing with Switchy for the past three years. He’s been a full blown drug addict for the past fifteen. He gets evicted because when he’s not stealing from people he’s beating them up. He’s been in and out of jail for ten years. It’s taken me 18 months to get him on a methadone programme and even then it took a court order.” “He might have changed,” suggested Buzzword. “Did you notice the bag he was carrying his belongings in? Do you know where he got that from?” The bag was a clear plastic one with all of his ‘stuff’ inserted into it, and his name written on the front on a tag. “No,” was the reply. “He’s got that because he’s just been released from the cells. The new year will be the same as the old one for him, hopping from one place to another, a few weeks inside and hopefully he’ll sort himself.”

“But,” said Buzzword, “perhaps my pep talk will give him the impetus to empower his life and be proactive in moving to the next level.” “Buzzword,” I simply said, shaking my head, “if you said all of that to him you might as well say in Cantonese, because he still ain’t gonna understand it.” I could never understand how someone who claimed to be so intelligent could be so stupid, but, at the end of the day, the joke was on all of us. Buzzword sat in his chair for four solid months doing nothing but applying for higher positions and practicing his vocabulary. Eventually someone bought the ticket he was selling and he left, for a far higher role, grinning all the way out the door. Every now and then I cross paths with him and run the other way, lest I get sucked into the World Of A Human Bullshit Thesaurus.

*Not sure if this is an actual word, if it is, great, if not, even better.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#146: Stray Cat Strut

I got cat class, and I got cat style…no, seriously, I do. I’m a feline Casanova, really, I am. I’ll strut right by with my tail in the air and get my dinner from a garbage can, and have a shoe thrown at me by a mean old man…

I trust you can understand that because the new standards of writing are about to be dropped upon anyone working at a professional level and those standards are, well, lacking to say the best. For years I’ve been guided, like most professional writers, by the official Governmental Style Guide (6th edition, published 2002, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Australia) but in our most recent team meeting I was told that I need not refer to that brilliant, and expensive, volume anymore. It’s out of date. That might well be the truth, but when I consider the alternatives I feel that I might as well give up and stop writing.

Why? Here’s some of the reasons. First and foremost all documents have to be written in such a way that they could be understood by a Year 10 student. That means the removal of complex terminology, no matter how relevant and removing jargon, using ‘simple English’, ie: instead of words like ‘extensive’ we now are told to use ‘lots’, ‘innovation’ is now ‘idea’ – you get the drift. It makes me want to vomit, sorry; spew me fuckin’ guts up m8. I expect that as the average Year 10 student now speaks in Textese we’ll soon be reduced to sending emails and official briefings in a manner that’ll require a seven year old codebreaker. IMHO Idk y bother, bt wen I sed “Jk, rotflmao,” I wz told, “Stfu & btw, gtfo.” I’m cool wit dat. Gr8.

We’re now told that a sentence cannot contain more than 12 to 14 words. Anything more than that will lose the person reading it. No biggie, I’d be happy for a few people to be lost. Each paragraph must be focused on the one point – this I can agree with, but each document can be no more than two hands – ie: one page, no more.

It doesn’t end. Email signatures now have to be changed. No more italics or bolding. Why? Because when you italic or bold, or otherwise pretty up your name it means that your name is more important than the person who is reading it, and they may take offence. Fk of!

Do not use colours. That’s offensive. Now this I could agree with, but when I supplied an example I received a look of total surprise. My example: some West Indian cultures see the colour pink as an affront to their masculinity as pink equates homosexuality. Funnily enough, after all of that, no-one believed me.

Another innovation, sorry, idea, was that we should now write everything in a font called ‘Cosmic’, which isn’t even installed on my current machine. Why? Because it’ll appeal to children and younger readers more. Considering that the average age of the people reading my reports is around 45 I know that if I use a funky font I’ll be slapped in the head, metaphorically, sorry not a real hit. Or sumthin. Fuk, idk

We have to leave more ‘white space’ than we have text. Fully sik m8. I’m still trying to work that one out.

Some of the points were merely logical, sorry, they made sense. Be tactful was one. I can agree with that. I’m not about to send out an email saying that I can’t finish a particular job because one of the people I need to talk to is a right arsehole and needs his nuts nailed to the table in order for there to even be a faint hope for him to be present at pre-arranged meetings. I’d not even say it, but then again I do remember getting an email which was sent to an entire region that was so racist in tone that even I could see what was coming. The author of the email, not me BTW, was dragged before the big boss and reprimanded, sorry, told off, and instructed, sorry, told, to write an apology, sorry, told to say sorry, to the region. The poor thing’s apology was along the lines of, “I sent an email, sorry if you took offence.” Luckily for my co-worker they showed it to me first, I insisted, sorry, told, that they not send it as it’d make things worse and I drafted an acceptable, sorry, good, apology, sorry, sorry, letter, sorry, note, which we duly sent out. All was good with the world and my team leader was happy that I’d rendered assistance, sorry, helped, even if it was left unsaid.

There was much more but I’d walked out by then. Those of us who use proper English in both our writing and speaking are dinosaurs, sorry, old. The language is changing in ways that a lot of people can’t understand, nor keep up with. Oddly enough I have no real issue with that. When you study text from say Shakespeares era, sorry, borin old fukr, it’s almost unreadable now. Ponder this. Here we have the famous scene from Romeo and Juliet; first in it’s original text and then as it would appear now.

He ieasts at Scarres that neuer felt a wound,
(JULIET enters on the balcony)
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Iuliet is the Sunne,
Arise faire Sun and kill the enuious Moone,
Who is already sicke and pale with griefe,
That thou her Maid art far more faire then she:
Be not her Maid since she is enuious,
Her Vestal liuery is but sicke and greene,
And none but fooles do weare it, cast it off:
It is my Lady, O it is my Loue, O that she knew she were,
She speakes, yet she sayes nothing, what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answere it:
I am too bold 'tis not to me she speakes:
Two of the fairest starres in all the Heauen,
Hauing some businesse do entreat her eyes,
To twinckle in their Spheres till they returne.

What if her eyes were there, they in her head,
The brightnesse of her cheeke would shame those starres,
As day-light doth a Lampe, her eye in heauen,
Would through the ayrie Region streame so bright,
That Birds would sing, and thinke it were not night:
See how she leanes her cheeke vpon her hand.
O that I were a Gloue vpon that hand,
That I might touch that cheeke

Ay me!

It’s easy for someone to joke about scars if they’ve never been cut.
(JULIET enters on the balcony)
But wait, what’s that light in the window over there? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Rise up, beautiful sun, and kill the jealous moon. The moon is already sick and pale with grief because you, Juliet, her maid, are more beautiful than she. Don’t be her maid, because she is jealous. Virginity makes her look sick and green. Only fools hold on to their virginity. Let it go. Oh, there’s my lady! Oh, it is my love. Oh, I wish she knew how much I love her. She’s talking, but she’s not saying anything. So what? Her eyes are saying something. I will answer them. I am too bold. She’s not talking to me. Two of the brightest stars in the whole sky had to go away on business, and they’re asking her eyes to twinkle in their places until they return. What if her eyes were in the sky and the stars were in her head?—The brightness of her cheeks would outshine the stars the way the sun outshines a lamp. If her eyes were in the night sky, they would shine so brightly through space that birds would start singing, thinking her light was the light of day. Look how she leans her hand on her cheek. Oh, I wish I was the glove on that hand so that I could touch that cheek

Fuck me!

English, in its traditional form, is almost a totally different language to what we speak today; hence early texts have been ‘updated and translated’ into the modern era. The shame lies in the removal of certain words – Byron and Shelly’s poetry is wondrous to read in its original form as the words form a certain cadence that’s often missing in modern tracts. I love reading the original version of Byron’s She Walks In Beauty, a poem that Byron wrote in the company of Percy Shelly and after he, Byron, had left his wife and England forever:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

I love that poem so much that I referred to it when I wrote my wedding vows; sadly no-one picked up on it at the time, but the alternative, quoting from Brian Setzer…
Look at me once, look at me twice,
Look at me again and there’s gonna be a fight!
…just wasn’t going to happen, although it might have made for a more interesting day. Perhaps I’ll slip it in when we renew our vows on our 10th anniversary. Why didn’t people notice? Well, frankly, nobody reads Byron anymore, and frankly I’m about the only one left who reads that stuff for enjoyment these days. Oh, while I’m digressing, just for shits and giggles, I also quoted Robert Browning on that day too. “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” – that wasn’t mine. The rest was though. But I did name check Browning…but back to where I was.

The English language is evolving. In another hundred years text like this will be as alien to the readers as text is to us from the late 1800s and early 1900s. If you don’t believe me then spend an hour or so in the local library and read old newspapers, you’ll soon get the gist of things. I may not embrace the changes as they often don’t make much sense, but I will do my best to adapt. Having said that there are a few things that I refuse to do, and foremost amongst them is to dumb down what I write because it might be read by an idiot in charge with ADD. I’ll adapt to the change, but in my own way, and may I perish before the removal of some words from the language proper, but then a language never fully dies if there’s a record of it, and there’ll always be a record of what we said and how we said it after we’re all long gone.

Allow me to close out with some more Browning. This wasn’t written about the English language, but it’s as fitting an epitaph as I can think of, and one that I’d not mind adapted and placed on my own monkey stone: “How sad and bad and mad it was - / But then, how it was sweet!”


Thursday, February 18, 2010

#144: Watching You

So tell me who hasn’t been both greatly amused and also slightly disgusted by the car crash that is the lead-up to the forthcoming election? I know I have, and both are for all the wrong reasons. Every week a certain someone is dragged out in front of the media at large where they perform like dancing bears in an Asian circus. It reached it zenith when one of the more notable performers was jammed into a tree, fully made over, and the resulting photo was passed off as the subject ‘relaxing’. I’ve yet to come across any female who gets a full make over, make-up, hair, clothes – the lot – and then goes and relaxes in the branches like a trained monkey. Sad really, very, very sad.

Now the local rag here has totally censored any form of comment about the leading issue of the month, or what it certainly sees as the leading issue of the month, due to that issue allegedly being part of some form of legal action anywhere in the world. The way they get around this is to state that they’re being paid to comment/report, in which case I’ve asked a friend of mine if he’d be willing to pay me for this essay. After the laughter it was agreed that a Mintie would be appropriate as a form of payment, the deal was struck and sealed, so here’s what you get for your Mintie. Cash, or in this case, Mintie, For Comment.

The crux of the issue is a simple one on the surface, and I’m sure the entire planet knows it, but I’ll assume that someone, somewhere, has just come out of a coma and explain it as I see it. In short, the Premier of the state may, or may not, have had an alleged affair with a married woman a few years back. It’s basically a “He said She said” story that, if one party wasn’t leading the state, would be solved quite easily with a restraining order for harassment. Sadly it’s not that easy. The alleged husband of the alleged wife (I’m adopting the traditional approach of journos everywhere by using the word ‘alleged’ every time I’m not sure of the facts, or am sure of the facts but don't wish to face legal action. It's the same when they refer to an 'informed source', or a 'reliable source' when what they mean is that they overheard someone talking at the pub/strip club) approached the Premier at a function and allegedly bashed him in the alleged face with an alleged wine magazine, all the time allegedly screaming something along the lines of, “That’s for my wife!” That last line sent Lunchtime O’Boozes all over the country scurrying about like fiddler crabs around trying to find out what was what, who was who and who was up whom and who didn't pay the rent. What they discovered was fairly, well, non-eventful, but that didn't stop anyone from beating it up like a young man with a endless supply of hardcore porn.

The alleged Premier was accused by an alleged women in an alleged paid alleged interview of having alleged sex. The alleged interview itself was highly telling. The alleged woman sat there, looking quite pathetic really, as she recounted several alleged events involving desks and golf courses. It sounded all the world like Jim Cairnes and Junie Morosi had come back into focus. Still Junie appeared to be a lot stronger in character than the current alleged woman. I can’t recall Junie looking anything other than slightly alluring, certainly she didn’t look tragic, nor did she allegedly sound whining and hopeless.

The alleged woman's alleged interview was dismissed the following day by the Premier who stated that he’d not had sex with her. The facts were still there, he said he knew her, but never slept with her, while he was single, and she said that he did indeed allegedly sleep with her, while she was married. Webs often get tangled and this is one that a hundred spiders would happily walk away from.

From this point on the media went into meltdown. The alleged husband who allegedly assaulted the Premier allegedly pleaded not guilty and allegedly insisted that he wants a trial where the alleged truth will come out. I fear it’s going to end badly for him. The alleged woman then splashed herself on the front page of the local fish wrapper by appearing, allegedly uninvited, to an art gallery opening where the Premier would be appearing and then asking for CCTV footage that she’d never get in a hundred years. Still the masses of people chewed it up. Each time the alleged woman has stated that her intentions are to force the Premier to tell the truth and allegedly ‘restore her reputation’.

Is that reputation one of a liar, who has extra-martial affairs? I say liar because anyone who is in a relationship who has an affair outside of that relationship and does not disclose it at the time is lying, both to their partner and themselves. Delusion is a wonderful thing really. So the alleged woman wishes for her reputation to be ‘restored’. Does this also mean that she had a reputation before this? She worked as a waitress. Not a bad reputation to have, unless you start sleeping with the customers. That’s not a good reputation to have, it's highly unprofessional and is a sacking offence in any decent restaurant and would ensure that you'd be best off finding a new career.

See my point? She’d be better just letting it go, but she can’t. Slowly but surely the media have dragged her deeper, and she looks worse each time she’s presented. I can’t find a single person who is supportive of her – and that includes a lot of females. In fact more females than males really. They all say the same thing, “She’s a horrible, horrible person,” they state, and then they wish she’d go away. She's allegedly about as popular as Ebola right now and more than one person I've spoken to wish to allegedly smack her for allegedly 'giving women a bad name'. As for the premier, well he’s not the first politician to allegedly have an alleged affair while in office, and I doubt he’ll be the last. He’s not even the first to face a public accusation while still in office and, again, he won’t be the last. Still if Teddy Kennedy can move on from a car crash that killed a woman, our guy can surely move on from an alleged desperate alleged stalker.

Look at it this way - Tiger Woods allegedly slept with a number of women, from the alleged ordinary to the alleged porn stars. When his wife discovered the alleged affairs she allegedly simply grabbed a two iron and allegedly began to bash ole Tigger around the head. When Tiger allegedly ran, as you do, she allegedly threw the club through the car window, allegedly forcing Tig to drive into an alleged tree. Simply put, it was handled in house. But then Mrs. Woods didn't need to allegedly sell her story as Tiger's net worth is slightly more than most countries, so the alleged pay out for her should be substantial. Hey - for a quarter of what Tiger is worth I'd happily allow him to roger me with the business end of a nine iron anytime, so I can understand why Mrs. Woods is keeping quiet on this one.

So who wins out of all of this? People who love watching car crashes for one, because this wreck is gathering momentum by the second. Certainly the alleged husband doesn’t win. He’s estranged from his alleged wife and there’s a report that he allegedly wants her back. God knows why. The alleged woman? Oh, she’ll be fine and will eventually be on Dancing With The Stars by the end of the year, swanning around and hoping for votes. She allegedly got a six figure sum for the initial interview and I’m sure she’s pocketed some more since, so she won’t be wanting for cash in the near future, plus when the dust settles there’ll surely be a book deal and the magazine/talk show circuit to do the rounds of. Cash for comment baby! However she’s fighting to regain a reputation which, if she gets, believes will vindicate her and ‘restore her reputation’. As it stands she has very little of a reputation and if the alleged affair is proven to be true, well see above. I’d hate to have that on public record. I’ve slept with people who were married at the time, and have had affairs when I’ve been in a relationship. However the last thing I’d want is for all of that to become public knowledge, as I’m sure the other people involved – discretion is the better part of valour, but not to the alleged woman. In her eyes she clearly wants the universe to know what she did. I was once fronted by an angry husband of a woman whom I’d had relations with only hours before at a party, not only did I do a Bill Clinton and deny, deny, deny, but I was so believable that the husband then went off to biff someone else for smearing the reputation of his wife. Never saw any of that crowd again.

The people who most certainly do not win out of all of this are the couple’s children. They lose big time. One can only imagine the relentless school yard teasing that’s going on, even as you read this. Their mother allegedly slept with the Premier and their father allegedly bashed his head in! And that’s for starters! You’d want to take an Energizer Bunny version of Chuck Norris with you everywhere, one that delivers roundhouse kicks to the heads all day, every day, Hyundai. The kids will grow up, scarred for life, knowing the full reason why their parents allegedly broke up: that being that their alleged mother decided to have an alleged affair with another man and allegedly lied to her alleged husband. I’d not want to inflict that kind of emotional scarring on any child, and I expect that there are some therapists out there who are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of some fairly substantive on-going work. Any decent head shrinker will tell you that stories like these are what long lasting case studies are made of. As it is the alleged woman could do worse by seeking some professional help herself, as could almost everyone in this sordid, backwards affair. I doubt it’s going to happen in a hurry, and I can’t help but wonder if the real reason why the local cat box liner won’t allow comments is because they just don’t want to know the real thoughts of the public, and I’m sure such negative comments, or the overall lack of support, would only serve to damage the already fragile psyche of the alleged woman, or perhaps it wouldn’t? Still, feel free to leave a comment here, it’s not like the alleged woman will ever see it, nor will anyone else for that matter.

Now excuse me while I slink off to eat my Mintie.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#143: Bus Stop

Can anyyyybody, fiiiind meeee, a bussssss that willllllll stop!

That first line makes more sense if you’re thinking of a certain Queen song, but the sentiment is there.

I’m firmly convinced that the current public transport system in this state is administered by Wang-Wang and Funi. Come to think of it, they couldn’t possibly do a worse job than whatever drunken monkey is in charge at the moment. Here’s my gripe.

We catch the bus into the city every morning. We started doing this after we did some simple sums and discovered that we were paying around $60 in parking costs each week, plus an extra $20 in petrol, not to mention wear and tear. All up I estimated that we were spending around $90 a week to drive our car into the city from an inner suburb. We got fat and lost nearly $200 a fortnight. So we got some Multi-trip bus tickets, at just over $30 a fortnight, and began to walk home. It takes us around 20 minutes to walk home, the fat fell off and is staying off and we’re up around $160 per fortnight and, so we’re told, saving the environment as a whole.

Sure thing. Have you seen the smoke spewing out of these monsters as they stop-start their way around the streets? Of course you have. It’s horrid. But that’s not the gripe. Nope, my gripe is the timetables, or really, the lack of.

The bus timetables are clearly as flexible as the drivers themselves. When we leave home we know that between 7:45 and 7:50 at least three, if not four, buses will come by our stop. Our stop is on a major road, there are no connecting roads, so the buses are all from the one place, going to the same place. If we get to the stop by 7:55 then there might not be another bus for up to twenty minutes, if not longer. We’ve given up trying to work out which bus is early and which is late. Its pot luck. If you get the early bus then you can rest assured that it’ll stop just outside of the city and idle for upwards of fifteen minutes, no matter what the weather is. The driver will sit there, oblivious to the passengers who are usually packed in like the proverbial small fish, sweating or freezing, breathing stale air and expiring quietly but unable to slip to the ground. There’s clearly a rule against a driver either opening a window, a door or turning on the air-conditioning. While you wait its fun to count the number of empty buses that will fly past, going down the same route. That’s right, empty.

You see only the first bus in the convoy will stop for passengers. The other buses will stop, but generally refuse to open their doors. At no point will any of the bus drivers do anything daring, such as actually overtake the first bus. God no, that is verboten! The first bus has to be so full that people are standing in door wells and stacked up to the roof like firewood before the bus will admit that it’s full.

Unless you get one of those drivers who refuse to stop the minute one person is standing up. They won’t place a ‘Full Bus’ sign up, they’ll simply let you flag them down, slow down and suddenly speed up without looking. I’m sure it’s a game they play to relieve their own boredom, same as their insistence that they have their own personal road rules to obey, which means that anyone else on the road can play "Guess what we're gonna do now?" and hope that an accident, or death, isn't imminent. It can be slightly amusing to look out of the back window of a bus and see the wide-eyed looks of horror on the faces of commuters as one of the Yellow Monsters just decides to peel out into the traffic with a driver who clearly thinks a rear view mirror is there so they can see how good they look and also believes that the roads are generally empty. Most of the drivers of the buses have advanced sign language skills and have no issue whatsoever in getting their message across if need be. The other trick is to suddenly slam on the brakes, thus sending people tumbling to the front of the bus. The flipside is the sudden take off, which has the effect of nearly tearing an arm out of it's socket and also sending people crashing into each other. Perhaps the drivers are trying to eliminate on-line and telephone services with their own unique, yet effective, version of speed dating. "Hello," I gasped to the girl as the bus took off and I found myself holding certain body parts, "nice to meet you." It was alright, her left elbow was firmly implanted into my neck and her right hand was using my groin as a handle of last resort before she also fell over. I'm sure she, like myself, would have preferred at least lunch first before reaching such a level of intimacy.

The other gripe is the age of the buses. In the past few months we’ve been catching a bus that’s so old that I firmly believe the graffiti on the back one of the seats that says ‘PS 4 DB’ was written by a girl who was sweet on me in my second year of high school. Hey – the initials match up and the handwriting looks familiar and the bus was certainly in service in 1981, which is when she would have written it. Plus it’s near the back of the bus where she’d sit. Memories. Alas, I never touched her, Horatio.

These vintage buses, or the Retro Bus as I call them, have had a new coat on paint slapped onto them in an effort to modernise them, but they’re not fooling me one bit. I had to catch myself only last week as I felt an irresistible urge to start singing ‘The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round’ at the top of my lungs. I’m sure a few people would have joined in. As it stands I’ve reverted back to my childhood by yanking the stop rope that runs across the roof in an effort to snap it, like we all did, well, at least us who operated outside of normal rules did during our school years. I love the Retro Bus. At least the graffiti is vintage, which means words are generally spelt correctly and the grammar is correct.

So who runs these buses? Lord only knows now, and He’s not telling. A safe bet is that nobody in senior management at any of the bus companies actually ever catches a bus (shock and horror if they ever did), certainly the Minister of Transport generally never goes near a bus unless there’s a camera present and the bus is brought to him/her (that’s historical really and applies to both the current, previous and future Ministers). Trains are fine, if you can avoid the bashings, abuse, hobos pissing on seats, wankers with iPods at full volume that only play doof doof techno (Eminem was right, techno is dead, so get over it), obese people sweating an endless supply of garlic, rat boys shitting in the corners and the endless supply of sleeping teenage Personal Assistants who dribble into their handbags every morning and afternoon, but at least they have to stop at some point and stick to a schedule. Bus drivers clearly make up their own rules.

It’s no use complaining. I once rang one of the companies to ask when the next bus was due. I was told that three buses had gone past my stop in the past twenty minutes. I replied that I’d been there for thirty and not seen a bus. I was then told that I was wrong, but at that moment four buses arrived, one full, the other three empty. When I mentioned this I was told that, again, I was wrong, even though the evidence was before my very own eyes. It mattered not, none of them stopped. I finally made it home…after a brisk walk.