drivers began turning out in their own shorts: Hawaiian shorts, cycling shorts and even cut-offs.
Now, some people look good in shorts, but I'm not one of them. My mother told me that when I was born the midwife held me upside down by my ankles and started smacking me. I don't know what I was supposed to have done to deserve this, but I was upside down long enough for my legs to be stretched between my knees and my body, giving me very thin thighs. And I'm expected to drive a bus with my legs sticking out of these blue shorts. The thing is, they resemble the shorts worn by Charles Hawtrey in Carry On Camping. They would make Linford Christie appear sluggish and lacking in grace.
What they do for London bus-drivers, including me, is quite unflattering. I tried on my shorts at home and went out into the garden. Within seconds I heard laughter coming from a nearby block of flats. After that my wife banned me from wearing them. I thought the idea of uniform was that it makes people more the same. But with all these different shaped legs on display it is nearly impossible. My conductor, Stanley, told me he was refusing to wear his shorts. I told him that the wearing of the blue shorts was compulsory, and there was an unpleasant moment when he was about to march off to the garage manager's office before I explained that I was only joking. So we're going to sweat out the rest of the summer in ordinary trousers.
The geezers who drive the Evening Standard delivery vans all wear shorts. They are forever jumping in and out of their vans, and the shorts make them appear more athletic (they think). The first time I saw these striped vans I thought they had been bought as a job-lot from a safari park. They get about pounds 500 a week for driving around and really you'd think they owned the road.
They stop where they like, nowhere near the kerb usually, and pull out without signalling or even looking. The reason they are in such a hurry is because they are on 'job-and-finish'. As soon as they finish dropping off the copies they can go home. Which is why you can get the Evening Standard in the morning. (I've been saying for ages that the Independent should get its own van and do its own distribution, but no one ever listens to me.)
In all this hot weather, of course, cars with sun-roofs have come into their own. And when you are high up in a bus you can see right down inside the car. Drivers of articulated lorries are always telling stories of sexual acts being performed before their eyes in the fast lane of the M6. The things I've seen from the cab of a bus are bland by comparison. Most drivers in London are either reading or sorting out paperwork.
It is a bit disconcerting driving up Park Lane with a bus load of people knowing that the bloke in the car in front is doing his VAT returns. Or I watch in despair as a businessman clinches a deal on his mobile, while checking invoices, and fails to notice that the traffic lights have turned green. I hoot my horn and he drives off just as the amber comes on. I was in slow-moving traffic down by Chelsea Barracks one day when an army staff car came alongside. There were some generals inside sharing a packet of polo mints. One of them noticed my gaze and offered me the packet. 'Not when I'm on duty,' I said grimly, and drove off.
On another occasion a car pulled up beside me and I could hear Nessum Dorma coming full blast out of his sun-roof. The driver turned it off.
'Do you mind?' I said, 'I was listening to that.' 'Sorry,' he replied, and turned it back on again.
I like to play a game with the sun-roofers which I call 'Heil Hitler'. I wait until I see someone wanting to come out of a side-turning and I stop to let them out. They are usually so surprised by this gesture that they whizz out and stick their hand up through the roof to wave. As they are accelerating, their arm is forced back, and they end up giving an involuntary Nazi salute.
It doesn't always work. Some drivers think that if you hesitate and they force their way in front of the bus, they are superior. It happened the other day. I let a bloke out, and the only response I got was a single finger, the middle one. Which I think was quite uncalled for.
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