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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London