Magnus Mills: Spare a thought for us bus drivers

If you object to slogans like the atheists', you're in the wrong job

Share
Related Topics

One Saturday evening my wife said to me, "Were you driving a blue bus along Oxford Street this afternoon, about three o'clock?"

"Yes," I replied. "I was."

"Thought so," she said. "I was riding in the bus behind you."

"How did you know it was me driving?" I asked.

"Easy," she replied. "I could tell by the body language of the bus."

Exactly what this conversation revealed about my style of driving is debatable. One point is clear, however: buses always get noticed. Which is why they've been a popular advertising medium ever since the days when they were pulled along by horses.

Most London buses are red, of course, with an advertisement board stretching along each side between the lower and upper decks. Recently, though, entire vehicles have been given flashy new paint jobs to make the ads even more conspicuous. The blue bus in question was one such example: better known as the "Mary Poppins" bus, it was based for a while at King's Cross garage. And that's how I came to be driving it one Saturday afternoon (about three o'clock).

Most bus drivers take little notice of the adverts on their vehicles. Usually they just settle in behind the wheel and get on with their work, oblivious to whether they are helping to publicise liquorice allsorts, holidays in Oman or silky lingerie.

But of late it's been difficulty not to notice a certain message inscribed upon a certain bus. "THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD," announces the slogan. "NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE"

This is the so-called "Atheist bus" and its easy-going commandment was apparently sponsored by a select group of worthies with nothing better to spend their money on. Not to be outdone, various Christian groups have since responded by fielding their own buses, suggesting that there is, in fact, a God, and providing indisputable evidence based on the scriptures.

This game of theological ping-pong looks set to continue for some time, and should remain not only harmless but also irrelevant, just so long as the Jews, Muslims and Hindus don't join in.

Harmless and irrelevant are not words I'd use to describe another bus that's appeared on the scene during the past few months. This newcomer depicts the actor Daniel Craig in his guise as James Bond. Fourteen feet high he stands, at the rear end of a double-decker, looking immaculate as he loads new bullets into his handgun. He seems laid-back and nonchalant, emptying the spent cartridges on to the ground.

Obviously any driver who objects to being the purveyor of such messages is in the wrong job. Bus drivers aren't meant to have feelings. I've been driving buses in London on and off for 20 years and I don't particularly like the glorification of guns and weapons in ads for movies. But if I refused to drive a bus I'd be failing in my duties. After all, that's what we're paid for.

Meanwhile, almost every bus shelter in London shows some movie star or other pointing a pistol menacingly at the hapless passengers waiting in the queue. From Jodie Foster to Al Pacino, they've all got guns.

But the man of the moment is undoubtedly James Bond. After all, he's got his own bus. And the message is unequivocal: guns are OK. You can tell from the body language.

Magnus Mills is a bus driver whose novels include the Booker-shortlisted The Restraint of Beasts. His latest, the maintenance of headway, will be published by Bloomsbury in August

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?