Filling, the bus is half filled and that’ll be it. Those aboard seated singularly, staring vacantly out of windows decidedly clean.
It’s time to leave but the driver can’t. Loitering at the stop and in the stairwell off the bus are two blokes. One wearing an orange tee and rumpled baggy cargo pants closest to the driver. The other grasps the entrances door rail with feet on terra firma whilst his more forward mate says to the driver,
“…… um we’re homeless and we got no money but can get some at Rosney and then we’ll be able to pay the fare back here to the city where we’re sleeping.”
There’s a strange logic to this argument I think.
The second of the two has darker hair and has seen the hairdresser less and is all in black, down to his cargo pants. He moves up a step higher edging orange tee shirt to one side, possibly to let the driver know there are two of them.
“If they’d not said they were homeless, how would anyone have known”, I find myself thinking.
The driver’s caught in a dilemma. It’s time to go and he’s got to decide what to do!
“We’re homeless and need to get to Rosny so we can get back to the city where we’re sleeping.” Orange tee says again as if repeating this will improve his chance of a charity ride.
The boarded passengers aren’t restless yet. They will be given a few more minutes delay though.
“So you need to get to Rosny mate?” says the driver, looking Orange tee up and down and Black tee down.
With a backward wave of his left hand the driver signals them into the centre aisle at the front of the bus, and then activates the door close with his right.
The bus swings into the Mall. Orange and Black tee grip the vertical chromed rails as the bus lurches through the peak hour traffic. Whilst looking like other Hobartians, the other Hobartians seems to know they’re not. On the right hand arc up onto the Tasman Bridge the centrifugal force causes Orange tee to grab at the strap hanger for steadying. It’s a telling moment. The bus slowly fills with the acrid odour of unwashed armpits and unlaundered clothes. Four seats back the waves sweep over me.
“How far to Rosny” I hear myself thinking.
The driver is oblivious, tied up with negotiating the thickening traffic at the East Derwent interchange.
Those folk who were secretly hoping the driver would let these guys on for free aren’t so sure now. Their tolerance is lower the closer they are to the front of the bus.
I wonder at these non paying passengers plight. How’d they arrive at where they are now? Whilst we see them as a couple, perhaps they are only tied by their circumstances. How soon could any of us find ourselves in like situation?
I try hard to rationalise these ideas but the air affects my thinking. It’s the air of desperation carried on the odour. They chat about nothing and about everything and there I am trying to listen in while pretending not to.
Rosny bus station is a change of traffic light away before we are hove to at the stop. The alighting passengers are strangely reticent to adopt their usual push and shove to the exit, until the homeless go. Then I watch the uniformed school kids, miss representative of the commission home folk in her trackies and too short gym top, a matron from an age past, and several well heeled looking clerks or maybe like me public servants. But unlike Orange tee and his mate who I know are homeless I’ve no idea of what the living arrangements of any of these folk is.