Short tips on waiting for buses. Practising the mindfulness of a samurai. Everyday Stoicism in action. A chance for galaxies to collide.
I'm firmly a public transport person. Through my son, I'd even venture to say I'm a reluctant enthusiast or a moderate fan, I've moved through the purely functional to where function meets form or more.
I've not learnt to drive. I've lived most of my life in London. Given London's Tube started in the 1850s I think the transport system has managed to play the cards it has been dealt. It's emphasis on design and art is stimulating if you pay attention; more simply a spot of sunshine on a regular heads down day.
Art on the Underground have commissioned some great works in the last 14 years. The labyrinth project (see pictures below) by artist Mark Wallinger has each station with have an enamel panel measuring 60cm by 60cm with a different labyrinth on it. All 270 are numbered them according to the route taken on the 2009 record breaking Tube Challenge.
‘Diamonds and Circles’ works ‘in situ’ is the first permanent public commission in the UK by the acclaimed French artist, Daniel Buren. The artwork transforms Tottenham Court Road station with Buren’s signature geometric patterns across the vast central ticket hall and multiple station entrances. Buren’s designs play with simple concepts; shapes, colours and stripes.
Still of late, I've done my fair share of waiting for buses and here are my tips.
So first the obvious... In London, TFL through the internet can give you a very good sense of when a bus is arriving. Google maps, citymapper and the like can also help.
If those are down, or you want to go old school, then you want to check how many people are waiting at the bus stop as you approach. More people the higher chance a bus is coming. A very large crowd might indicate a broken bus or another larger problem.
You might also want to check if walking on to another nearby stop might give you a larger variety of buses to choose from.
If it looks like a long wait and you want to walk on, you can do so but you need to mentally commit - maybe make it into a game. You need to commit in your head, because there is anguish if while walking, the bus you want passes you by.
You need to borrow from the samurai.
Due to the mental pain of the needed bus passing you, I suggest if in doubt just wait. If you end up waiting a long time, chances increase that many buses arrive together! Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
This is an occasion to practise stoic thinking and mindfulness.
Seneca wrote that about 2000 years ago. He was not thinking about waiting for buses. Given the amount of waiting I know do, and the complex patterns of transport (today only Night Tube train routes), I find I enjoy myself letting go to an autistic pattern not of my understanding. To do this, I need to relax from "an anxious dependence upon the future" and then the journey is often remarkable.
My last tip is to strike up a conversation. The two classic openers would be to ask how long they have been waiting or a comment about the weather. From there conversations could meander down any path. It does take two to dance, but an open mind and a strong lead can take you anywhere.
Bear in mind - everybody is somebody's weirdo. Trains are not conducive to random conversation. People feel too trapped to risk it. Unless "otherness" intervenes and cuts across our bubble. An autist in the zone of rail song will do this for a carriage. If you don't have such a company, then it can be tough to start conversation.
Bus stops are easier. There's more space. There's a slower pace. It's a great area for serendipity and conversation to strike. Don't ask why? Think why not?