We do what we do to get by.
We do what we do to get by.
I repeat this to myself over and over, sometimes quickly then at a slow rhythm, rolling over the words like some old time dance. This calms me down. We are all flowing with the tide, I may not like or believe in half the things I’m doing, nor does the man next to me or the group behind us, we just need to get through the day.
The number 28 bus can be a minefield of extreme personalities at the best of times but tonight there seems to be added spark in the air. I would usually swing into the single seat behind the drivers booth on entering the bus but tonight its occupied. I’m filled with the same dread as when the self service tills in Tesco are off, I’m going to have to go in deeper, human contact becomes unavoidable. I catch the eye of everyone I pass, their gaze darts swiftly away, the last thing they intend is an invitation, and I cant blame them, in these cramped conditions no one wants an obviously clumsy six foot plus male with an over filled man bag as a neighbour. I awkwardly position myself in the first space I come to, one knee squeezed against the seat in front, the other one floating around the isle, like a hinged gate on a canal, occasionally pulling in to let the traffic through.
Three separate men with three separate Staffordshire Terriers have gotten on at the last three stops, each time a mini crisis ensues, barks and shouts, tuts and sighs of elderly indignation. The scene fades back to a tense silence in the time it takes each man to find his seat.
In front of me are two men, both of whom I would age between fifty-five and sixty, real working class former "lads", on route home from an afternoon of betting slips and flat lager in the dim corner of a timeless pub. I can’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. I find myself becoming more and more endeared to them, I decipher that one is an eternal bachelor, the other a widower, both probably heading back to a one bedroom flats, to Fray Bentos pies and TV shows that they don’t really appreciate. There is a sadness in the manly bravado they try to put across to each other, the desire to remain masculine in spite of the ever increasing frailty of their age. I can’t help but see myself as them, in years to come when life has had its way with me, taking quiet joy in mid-afternoon socializing and evenings alone with the radiator.
Things then take a dark turn when a young couple get on at the next stop and sit in front of these two men. As soon as this new couple starts to talk it is apparent that they are not from round here, they speak in a language I can’t understand, which sounds Polish or perhaps Lithuanian. I now watch as one of my old gents aims a thumb at them and shakes his head, with a look of disappointed anger on his face, his friend nods in agreement. They say nothing, just gesture and nod. Surely they only thing worse than a racist is a cowardly, cloak and dagger racist. I think I would have almost preferred it if the two guys had had stood up and actually abused this couple, had thrown them off the bus and made a real scene, the way the actually conduct themselves is equally as sickening, but also horribly sad and dishonest. As the bus rolls up towards my stop I see one of the men make the shape of a gun with his fingers and aim it the couple in front, he pulls it back and puffs out his checks, quietly acting out gun shots, his friends smiles and quietly agrees. I step of this bus, angry and instantly reflecting on what I “should have” done. Tap these old bastards on the shoulder and verbally confront them? A firm slap across the back of both greying heads? I make the short walk to the front door of my building, having done nothing, and decide that it was possibly the best course of action. I kept my head down and I got by. The old men played their disgusting roles to each other, they feel personally impressive, and they get by. The couple know nothing of this episode and they continue living there lives. Three Staffordshire Terriers sit loyally by their owners. We do what we do to get by.