Babyboomer on board…

auckland-northstarDay 1:  Slightly lost. Ask an old derro if the 277 bus goes past here.

“No Sevens here!” he shouts and I move away just a little. “No mate,  not here. Only Sixes come past here” he yells.

He unfolded himself from the footpath, his shaggy eyebrows curling over his eyes like great grey caterpillars as he squinted at me, juggling his false teeth.

“Where yer from?”

“Three Kings” I told him, but that didn’t wash. People who lived in Three Kings knew where to catch the Sevens and wouldn’t be asking the way…. Must be the beret I’m wearing.

Day 2:  Buses are naf – I’m an Aucklander and so, am wedded to  my car.  But after a day teaching I’m ready  to stroll under clear blue skies.  At the  Grafton Bridge bus stop,   a young Maori plonks himself  beside me just as I take money from my wallet.   “Mate – you got a  dollar?” I tell him no,  but he’s seen the colour of the folded stuff. ” You got $20 in there mate – you give me that?”  That’s inflation for you.  I shake my head and fortunately he boards the  next bus, remonstrating with the driver.  Another Maori  comes forward to pay his fare. My bus arrives and  a Middle Eastern student  ushers me  on ahead of him.

Day 3: Babyboomers abound on buses.  Most sit quietly without earphones, unlike the  young who are all wired.  A few Boomers bore fellow passengers with  cantankerous versions of The Way It Used to Be.   One portly man slumps on a bus seat after a  brief run,  crying out  “Lordie, oh Lordie!“. It’s cabaret, an embarrassing   confusion  of  orgasmic ecstasy and  exhaustion.

Day 4: Workmen are everywhere on Symonds Street, the city’s  arterial to the Uni and the law courts. They  smooth swathes of concrete while  behind orange barricades, diggers create new holes. In the midst of all this activity, a skateboarder rattles down the Street and everybody stops.  He’s an accident  waiting to  happen because he’s in the wrong lane. Luckily there’s no  traffic.

Day 5: Walking has its own rewards. Just  off Symonds Street somebody has placed a park bench with a plaque which reads:  On this site  in 1897,  nothing happened. Couldn’t say that about buses.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.