When the 21 is really the 30

When the number 21 bus to Lyall Bay is actually the Number 30 Seatoun Express, it brings out the best in people. For my second ever bus trip to Seatoun, I, along with fellow would-be passengers, waited and waited for the Number 30. On the electronic status display, it kept dropping back to the bottom of the list…clearly a problem of some sort was underway on the Seatoun route. After yearning eyes had read the destination on the front of yet another bus as it went by, a bus with Lyall Bay, 21, stopped. Those in the know were aware that something was up, and sure enough the bus driver opened the doors and shouted out “This is the Number 30 Express, not the Number 21” – a cry we were to hear often during that trip.

Those of us headed for Seatoun trundled on, in time to hear the driver explain that the name and number rollers were stuck (it was an old bus), and she couldn’t change it to its actual destination. Mumblings that it was likely to be  longer trip than usual took place, as this explanation had to happen at every stop. However, this is not a winge about transport problems, but a celebration of human nature.

At the next stop, two women who were obviously regulars on that bus route and time, spotted people who normally took the Number 30 waiting in the crowd, and shouted out that this was the bus they needed to be on. Startled looks, then a gallop to the front end of the bus and a quick climb on with a grateful “thanks” was the result. But this was only the first stop. The women on the bus got organised, as only Kiwi women can.

Someone had paper, someone else had a pen and they wrote two big 30’s as a sign to stick in the windows, and someone else produced sticking plasters to attach the signs to the windows. (Now you know why women carry so much stuff, just in case). Not content with this, another woman asked the bus driver to open the back doors as well as the front doors, so that they could shout out to the people waiting at the bus stops along the way, which bus it really was. This they did, taking turns, and getting rounds of applause each time, as more grateful Seatoun-bound passengers boarded the bus.

There were discussions amongst the passengers about possibly nipping out to buy chips and dip, for the long trip, and perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc, but instead they settled for a read-through of the Melbourne Cup listing which a woman had in her handbag. (Gotta love those big bags). Another passenger said that he had had number 15 in the office sweep; much hilarity when this turned out to be called “Lost in the moment” – something we were all experiencing.

Just when things looked like they might be settling down, and just before we went through the bus tunnel in Mount Victoria, a bumble bee added itself to the passenger list by flying through an open window. A woman reached into her handbag for tissues (now you know why we always carry them), and swiped at the bee. It appeared to be silenced, but however turned out to be only concussed, because right at the moment we went through the black tunnel, the bee regained consciousness, not best pleased at having been swiped at.

When we popped out into the light at the end of the tunnel, the bee was nowhere to be seen for a while, then established itself at the back window…next to me. I decided stoicism was the order of the day – if I left it alone, it would leave me alone. It did, and for the rest of the journey, the passengers disembarked with cheery farewells, having had what could have been a tedious trip enlivened by goodwill and good humour.

Short version of above at Wellington’s Dominion Post site:


Suzanne Peri-Chapman, 1 November 2011


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