The Boy on the Bus

Blocking my face with the bus stop stand from the swift wind caused by the oncoming traffic and the winter weather, I almost missed the little boy standing with his arm outstretched in his tiny business suit. He approached the advancing bus with such ferver that I thought I would have to jump out to save him from getting decapitated. Luckily, he was more adept than I was at that age, and stood resolutely and confidently with one arm up waving down the bus driver. The bus dutifully stopped in front of him, and opened its doors.

This boy was so curious with his tense shoulders and direct, no-nonsense stance. He was like a new breed of eight year old who I could have easily mistook for a 38 year old. But once I boarded the bus, I promptly forgot about him as I fumbled for my change and tried to remember which coins were worth what amount amongst the millions of British silver and copper in my pocket. Once I finally dumped what I had on the driver’s lap and let him deal with it, and the passengers behind me did their best English grumble and tut-tut, I headed to the upstairs level. Double decker’s are the best.

The eight year old had taken my favorite seat right in front of the window, so I grabbed my second favorite row in front of the stairs and stared out the window. The bus took off, Bristol passed me by and my mind wandered. A rumbling of paper turned my attention back to the boy. I watched him as he unfolded the paper, carefully fluffing out the pages as I saw hundreds of other commuters do five times his age. I still didn’t know how to correctly fluff the pages of a newspaper, and I certainly wouldn’t attempt such a thing on a bus of all things. People would laugh, children would cry, and I’d probably get a paper cut.

I got off before the boy did, but he was still reading his paper. I couldn’t get him off my mind, so I told Jock about this strange, abnormal android of a child. Jock laughed, and said, “Yeah, we learn to read the papers at a young age. I remember reading it at his age.” When I asked him about traveling on a bus by himself at that young stage of life, he replied that children don’t have school buses, so they have to learn to ride public transportation. I am still baffled at this when I think back to my days on the school bus, chanting nursery rhymes, making up songs and blowing spit bubbles – for that, was as far as I got to reading a newspaper. (Unless my mom kindly tore out the comics for me – Brenda Starr was my fave!)

Another cultural difference identified.

(Sidenote: I was a little concerned that he may have been reading the Sun newspaper, in which case he would have had full frontal in his face right on page 3. Still don’t understand how the British see nothing wrong with having breasts in their newspapers – but then again, that’s just my Puritan roots coming through….Luckily, it wasn’t the Sun.)


  1. I remember catching the regular bus to school, the normal commuters always hated traveling with the school kids and there were creepy bus drivers. I had to pay to get the bus because my school was in a different county and an hour away from my house! A lot of kids in the UK take the train to school too, here in Germany I am always seeing school children climbing off the Strassenbahn (tram) and walking home with their huge backpacks full of books.

    Not sure I ever read the paper on the bus though, maybe a book or something.

    1. I honestly can't wrap my head around that idea. I think if I were a mother I would never allow my child to ride the bus with creepy pedophiles and the sorts. Granted, now I love riding the bus just to observe people, but at that age? I guess it' s just a cultural thing. Sorry you had such a bad experience!

      1. It totally is a cultural thing, I remember riding the train to London alone to go shopping alone at around 14 years old… a 3 hour journey from my parents house. My mum has similar memories of going to London alone at around age 11!

        I think if we lived in England or any other part of Europe when my son was older I'd probably let him do the same, but in the States? Not so much. I'm not sure why exactly.

        1. I wish it were safe to do that in the states – I think there are just too many people who would take advantage of the situation. As a teenager we had many more privileges like going on trips alone, etc. I was 6 on my first plane journey without an adult (but that's different when there are stewardesses to help you along the way).

          But I think my first bus ride alone was at 14/15 going to high school.

  2. its always interesting to see the UK through the eyes of an expat, the things we see as normal take on a strange foreign feel to them. wonderful

  3. It's bizzare isn't it? As someone who is married to an American I'm constantly surprised at the things she points out as being slightly strange. It's often the subtle things which catches her out. But in this case, I'd probably say that it's not impossible to see such behaviour from a child in an affluent suburb with an exclusive private school in the states. Although, of course, it'd be unlikely they'd take the bus.

    1. I completely agree about the private school thing…and no, they wouldn't take the bus more than likely!
      RE: the subtle cultural differences, I remember Jock (my boyfriend) mentioning how Americans say "You're Welcome" after everything, and not really meaning it. I had never thought twice about this up to that point because it was just something you said when responding to a "Thank You." I didn't consider it to be meaningless, only rude not to say "You're Welcome." He felt that phrase was really formal and should only be used when feeling was behind it. Weird!

  4. It is interesting to see your views, as a Londoner, I have travelled by bus alone since the age of about 10, certainly to school on my own from 11 (in 1966) , about 5 miles and sometimes a change of bus.

  5. I was 8 years old when I first rode a bus by myself. I was quite confident that I could get from Arvada, CO to downtown Denver where the only YMCA was for activities. What my parents didn't know was I figured out how to transfer. So I'd start on one bus, and for the heck of it, transfer to another route and then back to the same line I started on. Only once did I end up on the very same bus I started on. The drive was a bit not happy with me as he quickly figured out what I had done. Looking back at it from my current age I can see where the drive was probably just concerned for my safety. What fun! When I got to the Y and what went on is a completely new story.

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