Forget Tsunamis and Ebola. Forget Richard Dworkins. Picture instead yours sincerely, hot, flustered, still in “pink mode” and (with seriously swollen ankles from sitting at my desk cross-legged for six hours yesterday) bearing more than a passing resemblance to Ermintrude from the Magic Roundabout. The scene, Wycombe bus station….as the Number 52 departs….three minutes early.
I checked the departure boards, an exercise in futility. I’ve been charting this since the Eden Centre was built two years ago. The snazzy new electronic arrivals and departures board in the bus station records the scheduled times of arrival. It shows when buses are on time. And it also shows their estimated time of arrival if they are late….until the scheduled time has elapsed. Then they fall off the system. Lost for ever.
In a sense, it’s a perfect system. It’s great for targets. No bus is ever late. No bus fails to turn up. And no bus leaves early. Except they do. When you’re looking simultaneously at the back-end of your bus and a board telling you there’s three minutes to its departure, you start to appreciate just how lousy the system really is. And the signs warning of the retributions that will follow if you try to board a departing bus really don’t help, which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to God. And the power of faith.
Despite my puffy ankles and general despondency, I decided to run down the side of the Eden Centre, dodging the lanes of traffic to Sainsbury’s, cross the Abbey Way Fly Over and catch the bus at the next stop. This really was an act of faith. Not entirely blind faith as I have seen a number of younger, fitter, women, with ankles like gazelles, try this manoeuvre. And (to the evident amusement of the bus driver) fail.
Obviously they didn’t have my lucky St Christopher. Nobody ran me over on the A40 and I got a set of green lights on the Fly Over. Thames Water were digging up the road, which meant the bus had to slow down.
I paid without making any comment to the driver about his early departure (or his pretending not to see me as I stood, forlorn, in the departure bay). Humble as ever, you see, although I may have been slightly laborious finding my change and (between gasping for breath) asking for the obscure stop by Godstowe.
Two minutes down, we departed with a screech of brakes. Then, on Amersham Hill, we came to the second miracle of the day. A heavily laden Jewson’s truck. We chugged up the hill, very slowly. I waited until we had reached an imperceptible crawl before ringing the bell. I counted sixty seconds before I got off.