Rhodri Marsden: A backseat bus driver and the meek authority of a saggy trouser

Life on Marsden


There was an altercation on the 131 bus the other night that was mildly interesting, although ultimately you'll be the judge of that. A man, deep in conversation on his mobile, sauntered on to the bus and held up his hand to the driver. God knows how the driver was meant to interpret this; it transpired that the gesture meant "do not drive this bus away", but bus drivers don't usually pay attention to backseat drivers – not least because there are often 50 or more of us. Consensus is a bad way to operate a bus route. The deal we make, in return for our fare, is that the bus driver will drive and we'll sit obediently. But this chap wasn't yet ready to be transported to Kingston bus depot.

The driver pulled out regardless, the man's hand still raised in a "halt" gesture as he yammered into his phone about cars, or girls, or toolbelts, or whatever it is men talk about. He looked at the driver with incredulity, his hand still in the air. "Er, what are you doing?" he asked the driver, who kept driving. "Hello?" he continued. "Did I say you could go?" The driver said nothing, so the guy turned to operate the emergency exit, at which point we braked sharply. "I say when you can go," he said, as the doors opened and he swaggered off into the night. This would have been an prime example of alpha-male braggadocio, but his waistband was 6in above his knees and I could see his underwear.

Much has been written about the fashion of "sagging"; those who don't have sagging trousers think it's ridiculous, those who do believe it's symbolic of some kind of hard-won freedom – in this case, presumably, from the tyranny of the 131 bus driver. I try not to judge – after all, I walk around wearing a trilby and plimsolls, which in many ways is equally absurd. But there's no doubt that people being able to see your pants undermines your authority. In addition, your exit from scenes of confrontation will lack the intended drama if your stride can only extend to 65cm because of a restrictive waistband.

"Your trousers are falling down," I mumbled, making sure he was out of earshot, because while visible underwear might stop someone from looking authoritative, it doesn't stop them from punching you in the face.

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