Central London’s bus routes have a new feature – small machines that you must buy your ticket from before they will let you embark. They have two particularly interesting features. Firstly they are the least well-designed / usable ticket machines I’ve ever seen, with the buttons that you are forced to press before you pay placed (cunningly) about half a foot below the place where you put the money in. So you see loads of people putting in money and then pressing buttons and looking a bit blank when they should be doing it the other way around. They form in little clots around the machines and make it impossible for everyone else who isn’t quite as dumb to pay for a ticket before the bus moves off. It’s very frustrating.
The other significant feature is equally annoying. The accursed machines are just too easy for people to game. Every single machine I use on a regular basis is clogged up with money at least twice a week. The reason? There’s a guy who roams up and down Oxford Street, putting in sticking and/or clogging-up substances (gum, maybe?) into the paying slot. He then waits for the money to build up and then comes along later in the day to harvesting the machines of lovely lovely cash. I have lost several pounds to this nefarious prankster. He is … objectionable … in my sight.
Anyway – yesterday I got to the bus stop, put in a pound, pressed the button (wrong order again, dammit, bloody machines), then pressed the eject button and then the proper button (first this time, good Tom) and capped it all off with the insertion of a nice round pound-coin. And what response did I get? Nothing. So I pressed the ‘eject money’ button once more. Nothing. So then I thumped it with my fist… And… Jackpot! Five shiny pounds clang down into the tray at the bottom. I am rich! My bus ticket karma is strong and I have been rewarded!
One stop later and the world finds equilibrium. Two people get on the bus without tickets. They want to get off again and buy tickets while the bus waits. The bus driver is understandably cross and refuses to let them do this as the ticket machine process is long and complex. They refuse to get out. Everyone on the bus shouts at them. Even I shout at them which is a surprise (I don’t shout at people much in public – only at the infestation of charity workers that colonise Central London). But they won’t get off. They say they’ve been waiting for half an hour. Everyone on the bus says they were waiting for half an hour too thank you very much. After ten minutes of stand-off, I get off the bus, buy them both tickets, thrust them in their hands, give them a piece of my mind about their behaviour (I’m becoming my mother) and sit down again on my seat. But they throw their tickets on the floor, the bus driver refuses to let them stay on board, the police arrive and then finally they get dragged off – possibly (for all I know) to Colditz or Alcatraz. At the next stop, almost exactly the same thing happens again! Again! Would you believe it! Another clump of people sans tickets, poncing around and shouting at the bus driver, causing a big stink and being unreasonable. Only this time I’m wise to their tricks. No buying people tickets for no good reason for me… Oooooh no… Not me.
And so time passes and we can finally see the great plan of the karmic network in its totality. For my extra four pounds that appeared from nowhere, I must pay two back and suffer over half an hour in delays. This is my destiny and I embrace it grudgingly. The world is a complex, intricate, designed place. And those bloody bus ticket machines are right at the heart of it…