Before getting to the point - that humans have an overblown passion for altruistically assisting anyone who ask them for help - I must briefly sketch the background that lead me to this conclusion. Since it is inextricably part of the story, I must also admit to having ridden on a bus. Actually, since there is a good chance that you yourself is as innocent of the follies and arcane procedures of the public transport sector as I was a mere 24 hours ago, it may be advisable, no prudent, to share here the procedure of “how to take a bus” in some detail.
It all starts with the dawn of a sudden and unexpected urgency to get from point A to B, when A is not the place where you keep a car in reserve, and B is not far enough to justify an airfare. You then recall all those huge and handsome air conditioned and ablutioned passenger liners that you’ve seen cruising the national roads, and battled to overtake, and you think what the hell. So you go and present yourself at a ticket outlet, noting that some grocery shops now offer this handy little functionality at their service counters. You inquire if there are any buses (don’t be alarmed if they called them coaches, they won’t really be horse drawn) that will be leaving during the next 12 hours in the direction you wish to travel. The lady at the computer then does a bit of typing, and then wordlessly flips her swiveling screen through a hundred degrees, at which point she diverts her attention to her nails. You find that the contortionist monitor presents you with a list of about six possibilities that more or less meet your requirements. There are buses from various carriers, at slightly different times and vastly different prices. You study the list just long enough to pretend that there could be a chance of picking any but the cheapest one. After a suitable amount of time, you pick the cheapest one. You show ID, pay and sign. You are reminded to show up for embarkation at the pick up point a full hour before the bus arrives.
Armed with ticket and backpack, you show up in Caledon for embarkation at 7:30pm. It’s cold and the bus won’t be along for another hour. You soon find that waiting for a bus is only fun for a few minutes, so you saunter off into a grill across the road for a beer and a cup of coffee. Hours later you check the time: 7:49. So you decide to let your eye rove over the bar to check out the hot local girls. There won’t be any. So you start reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller for a few more hours. At 8:25 you go outside, hoping the bus will be early. It won’t be.
When finally embarking at 8:35, you’ll be hit hard in the face by the sudden hot and moist atmosphere inside the bus. A lot of passengers for sure. And a lot of blankets. And a lot of kids sitting on the laps of adults or slightly bigger kids. And a lot of coughing. You soldier on down the aisle, but find you have to stop soon because there is a horizontal body spanning the width of the bus and closing off the aisle like a toll boom. Luckily, it will turn out to be the spare driver, fast asleep. You politely whisper excuse me please, hoping that he will move his bulk without actually waking up. But he will suddenly turn animated and surprisingly attentive at which point he’ll invite you to go and find yourself a seat at the back. You apologetically shuffle down the aisle towards the back, drawing disinterested looks. You find that, remarkably, there are no unoccupied seats in the back. Your return journey towards the front of the bus is made somewhat more difficult in that the vehicle is now weaving in and out the narrow streets, slightly late. The spare driver is skeptical. You remain standing in the isle while he sets off to go and check for himself. He comes back and informs you that there are no seats left in the back. You say thank you, and ask if there is a possibility of sitting anywhere else. The spare driver says no problem and removes some luggage from a seat right in front. You find your seat the very moment the bus finds the N2. You decide to switch on the reading lamp and immerse yourself, ostrich-like and deeper than ever before, in your book.
The specific bus that I took, had no toilet, and this presumably necessitated the convenience break at a neat yellow and red filling station. The driver announced that we must all be back in the bus in 15 minutes, and no later. He looked serious. Something told me not to leave the bus at all. Still, a river of passengers streamed out the bus into the toilets. After 10 minutes most have trickled back into the bus, bringing in all sorts of confections. The smokers returned during the last few seconds, still exhaling air of some opacity. And we were off. Then, about two hundred meters later, there was a commotion at the back: someone was left behind! My fellow passengers were shouting loudly to gain the drivers attention, and I thought wow, that was close. But then something so jaw-droppingly surreal happened that I almost swallowed my Kindle: The driver did not stop!
There is no way I could passively return to reading now. I was contemplating the age old question: to wait or not to wait. It was about an hour later, and I had just mentally ruled in favour of the driver, when the bus were pulled over by a police bakkie. The young officer walked over and the driver opened the door. Did the driver know, the officer asked, that he left some passengers behind 100km back? They are on their way now, and we were to wait for them. So we waited there next to the road. And we waited for more that half an hour. Finally the policeman drove off. The spare driver took the wheel, and we were off as well, now significantly late, with no sign of the jettisoned passengers.
Was the policeman right in trying to get the passengers back on the bus, or should he have told them to get stuffed?