The Bus Smells of Piss

Durham to Sunderland – November 2008
I think upon seeing these pictures that what might have endeared me to these purple buses was the happy pale-grey smile that the designers have had painted across the front, just below the windscreen. Oh! How susceptible one is to subliminal influence.
I was in Durham and I was due to be doing a drawing for one of our books and I had an inspiration. I’d seen these shiny purple buses going to Sunderland and I’ve never really been to Sunderland, so I decided to make use of my old-folks bus pass and get on one, reckoning I could map out the drawing as we went along.
The bus goes not along the main A690, but through the villages on either side, West Rainton, East Rainton, Houghton-le-Spring, East Herrington, Silksworth – places I’d never heard of never mind seen. The bus was empty to begin with save for me and an old geezer (another old geezer) sitting across on the other side of the bus, and as I got out my notebook I detected a smell of piss. This seemed to get worse, but I decided to put up with it, having made as sure as I could that the seat I was sitting on was not the source of the smell. For, as Robert Louis Steveson has pointed out, if you came away for an adventure, it would be singularly inconsistent of one to withdraw, the moment that adventure presented itself.
People got on the bus as it made its way along, and they said, ergh, it smells of wee. One or two went and spoke to the driver – nasty smell of piss in this bus, mate. It seemed to get worse, and women were opening all the windows and sitting with their hankies held to their noses. When we got to the shiny new bus station in Sunderland a few people reminded the driver that there was a terrible stink and he said, yeah, it’s OK, I’ve arranged to have the bus cleaned, and there sure enough was a man in a grubby yellow jacket with a plastic sack in his hand, waiting for the passengers to disembark.
I actually think it was the (other) old geezer, for while everyone exchanged a few cross words agreeing what an awful smell there was, he sat impassively and did not contribute even a bat of an eyelid. I think it was him.

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