Warning: driving a bus is bad for your health

Forget executive stress.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Driving a bus would be easy if it weren't for the passengers. Not content with a bus that brings them home from town at the end of the day, they insist on being dropped off near their homes as well. Most inconvenient. They all want to get off at different bus-stops along the way, so that we have to keep stopping and starting every couple of minutes. And they are forever ringing that bell. Absolutely no consideration for the driver and conductor at all.

Does all this sound unreasonable? Maybe it is. But when you are flogging along in an underpowered bus, trying to keep it going in spite of all the roadworks, traffic lights and illegally parked cars, it does seem as if the passengers are doing their best to slow your progress out of sheer malice. Or maybe it is just the stress that's getting to me - I should go and have a lie down. I can't really do that though: not when I've only got two minutes' recovery time at the end of the run before I have to turn round and go back the other way. Not even time for a cup of tea. All for pounds 4.59 per hour. I should get another job: one with less stress. How about being a top-flight business executive? According to Dr Tage Kristensen, of the National Institute of Occupational Health in Copenhagen, bus drivers are under more stress than executives. Those who have to put up with bad traffic are worst off, he told cardiologists in Amsterdam last week, and anyone working shifts has double the risk of heart disease as those working normal hours.

That probably explains why bus drivers tend to drop dead shortly after they retire. But it's easy, isn't it, bus driving? All you've got to do is sit there, perhaps carving up a taxi here and there; what's the problem? That's what the public tend to think. We're near the bottom of the social scale. Bus drivers are practically public property, open to abuse and accusation. After a while it gets to you, and makes you mean.

I read somewhere that the buses would be better if they employed nicer drivers. Most of us are nice when we start out. It's a shame the public always suffer when things go wrong, and then blame us. We pick up hundreds of people every day, but if someone standing at a bus stop doesn't stick their hand out, we'll leave them behind. If they're too lazy to raise a hand, they're hardly going to bother making a formal complaint. That's the sort of executive decision we make all the time. Anyway, there'll be another bus along in a minute.

Some decision-making is more straightforward. Do I ram this taxi that's just pulled out in front of me? Or jam the brake on and send half the punters flying up the bus? Most experienced drivers will be able to avoid both courses of action. But just as businessmen have their executive toys to help to relieve stress, busmen like to play games, too. A good old slanging match with a cabbie does a world of good. Nothing personal, of course. Besides, who else is there to shout at? We're constrained to be polite to the public. Look after them, give them a nice smooth ride. That means concentrating on the road: eight hours without taking your eyes off it. And making sure there's no one trying to jump off at the traffic lights. And sticking to the timetable, which means having to run at least one set of red traffic lights every day. Even more stressful than all this is opening up your paypacket and finding you've had another week of your life stolen for pounds 150. Don't talk to me about executive stress. At least they've got money to show for it at the end of the week.

These are some of the thoughts running through my mind as I work. And all the time there's that bloody bell ringing in my ear.

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