BRENDA MARSHALL discovers that the morning bus commute has a whole life of its own.
Taking public transport was a whole new concept for me, coming to live in Singapore from a country with wonky infrastructure. Self-drive was – and would probably still be – my preferred mode of transport. Six years later, my car is gathering dust back home and I’m now well-schooled in travelling by bus. It’s convenient, cheap, efficient and easy to navigate. No mess, no fuss.
I recently changed jobs and it opened a whole new dimension of bus-taking to me. My usual 7.30am, 60-minute journey changed to a 25-minute journey in the opposite direction, and at 8.20am. And that means I’m on the school bus. Not the private student-only bus, but the public bus.
Our neighbourhood is littered with kindergartens and schools. So, 8.20am means that I’m joined on the bus by multiple mums, grandmas, helpers, dads, strollers, backpacks, cuddle toys, the occasional comfy blanket, scooters, raincoats and more.
I watch the daily battle of everyone trying to make it to the bus stop with all items accounted for. The dealing with meltdowns. The 20 questions “Whyyyyyy?” – or “I need to pee!” Thrilled voices when a little one discovers a friend on the bus, as if they’ve been separated for ages, rather than seeing each other at school the day before.
The stampede continues into a bottleneck. There’s the organised chaos to get everyone boarded and seated, the desperate last-minute negotiations about putting on a backpack or putting away a water bottle. The “What? How did you lose your EZ-Link card in the last three minutes?” And, “How the holy cow did you manage to get it jammed between the seat and the wall!” It’s so deeply wedged in that dad’s mobile flashlight can barely see the card between the dust and paint particles and the other monstrosities that lurk in the space.
Then we have the “For goodness’ sake, not yet!” moments, as mum tries in vain to stop little George, who has mastered the art of pressing the buzzer and has pressed it seven times in the last half second.
“Ding, Dingggg, Dingggg!” Or, worse yet, he’s pressed the wheelchair bell: “BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BEEEEP…”
I’ve seen it all: biting, anger management, book reading, science projects taking up seats, kids in dress-up – all this in the distance of one stop or five minutes. Then the dismount starts, only to repeated at going-home time. Hats off to all the carers!
As for me, even though it means I’m squished in, sharing my space with all the above, do I still take the school bus? Yes, absolutely. Why? Because seeing little Filippo go off to school with one red shoe and one yellow one – something that was totally missed in the morning stocktake of events – is entertaining. It grounds me, and it makes my day!
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