Tuesday 1 February 2011

On the Buses

High executives of most of the Anglican bus companies spent some days in conference together discussing, "What does it mean to be high executives in Anglican bus companies?" In these past days, various presentations were made, and all were said to value the experience of coming together as Anglican bus companies' executives. The meetings ended with a press conference.

However, some high executives refused to attend because they won't accept the propriety, even where they exist, of allowing drivers and conductors on buses to be mixed crews, and some even won't accept women drivers. These issues continue into levels of management.

Relationships between some Anglican bus companies are rather frought, and there is a tendency to produce their own networks of co-operation. Some companies are now running services in the operating areas of other companies.

The bus company 'England National Express' produced guidelines years ago called, Issues in Bus Driving, and this stated that there will be, in time, women drivers at all levels, and not just mini buses, and that there can be mixed crews on buses so long as the bus conductor limits herself to tinkling her ding-a-ling. As for passengers, who regard all of this as an anachronism of long ago, well they can sit where they like and talk to whomever they want.

Other Anglican bus companies are different. Some have women drivers on even express long distance buses, and are dropping all restrictions on mixed crews, whereas some other companies, notably in Africa, still have conductors on buses who shout at the passengers to sit on seats as allocated. Women drivers may not even exist, never mind an absence of mixed crews.

Of course in many places a shortage of bus crew and expensive operations have led to single person buses, although management remains top heavy and continue the levels of discrimination. There is some talk of introducing driverless buses, operated by technology that prevents buses from bumping into other vehicles and lampposts and any passengers waiting to get on.

Passengers and those outside the service, such as car drivers, look upon the ways of the Anglican bus companies with some amusement. It is particular anachronistic given the numbers of cars with one or more passengers whose windows steam up at night with a gentle rocking motion.

As regards the recent meeting of high executives, no resolutions were passed, but they did decide to spend some time writing letters to various outside bodies, and included stamped addressed envelopes should any of them care to reply. Each letter begins, "Dear Sir or Madam, You may not know me but..."

At a final press conference some of the questions were about the attitudes of bus conductors to the passengers in some companies, and if this did no more than reflect the way that passengers behave towards each other at bus stops and elsewhere in operating areas.

The press conference said that of the high executives that either chose not to come or did not manage to attend, labels were still put on empty chairs and they were still considered. Some of these will be receiving one to one visits from Inspector Jonathan Blakey, the first among the first among equals of the executives. He was overheard saying under his breath regarding one persistent interviewer, Ruth Butler: "I 'ate you Butler."

He was keen to emphasise the difference between having a tendency to want mixed crews on buses and then actually having them and driver and conductor talking to each other. Apparently they can get together on a bus, one in the cab and one among passengers, but as stated mustn't communicate beyond the simple playing with the conductor's ding-a-ling. Driver and conductor must not only apparently behave properly with each other by passengers, but be seen to behave properly with each other and assumed to be so even if they are not.

Other Anglican bus companies regard the distinction over mixed crews as strange, either to ban such crews altogether and generate an atmosphere of total hostility, with the consequence of harassment of passengers and worse, or go to the opposite and recognise the natural tendency for mixed bus crews to converse with each other. The problem is that this issue of difference has overwhelmed the companies and, in particular, the work of Inspector Blakey who really only wants to say, "Get that bus out."

In England bus crews who are seen to behave properly on their bus routes but then do something else back at the station on the quiet often say that the Inspector keeps his beady eye on them. They seem to be treated so differently from the passengers, and yet their emotional needs are the same.

Stan Butler died recently in a home for old bus drivers and Jack Harper died some years ago after being suicidal for some time. As well as Inspector Blakey continuing in high office forever more, Anna Karenina is also a survivor from olden-times Anglican bus crew days and has appeared in the odd Russian novel.

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