“It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly.” – Oscar Wilde
Whilst walking home through the streets of South London, and through the everlasting smell of every possible thing fried (sometimes mixed with a slight hint of urine), I was contemplating how to approach this next blog-post. I have for a while now taken more buses than tubes, and I am slowly beginning to realize the power a bus ride can have on your psyche and on your mood, this is what I shall do my best to relate.
See, riding the bus in London can (if you let it) be an extremely enjoyable experience or (if you don’t concentrate hard enough) a delightfully disgusting pleasure. If you are so lucky as to catch a free ride with nr 12 from Elephant & Castle towards Oxford Circus you’ll find yourself happily surprised to be contemplating the architecture of one of Europe’s finest capitals. This bus (even though it is not a double-decker and thus deprived of a sky view) takes you from the regenerating and urban south bank up across the river into touristy London and you suddenly remember that you really do live in the same city as Big Ben. If the sky happens to be blue (which truly is rare) this ride can be exceptional, and it won’t cost you a dime (or a dollar or a penny or a pound… Or any other kind of money! Isn’t there a song like that?). If you, as me, live further out, you might find yourself on the G1 (around Tooting Broadway) now you have to be aware and ready for a ride on this bus, be prepared psychologically.
The thing one must contemplate before I move on to relating my own experience is that on the bus everywhere in London you can find every imaginable character alive (sometimes seemingly dead). You’ll realize how many different (and sometimes very weird) people actually (and daily) take the bus. When you start contemplating this idea and when you start looking around you will also notice more and more different people and you will start thinking “well if I look around this much then imagine what they must see when they see me”. And then as it happens you will notice one particular person, maybe you will see them twice or several times and then you find yourself wondering “well if I notice them maybe somewhere out there is someone random remembering my face”.
I met beard-lady, her son and her mother on the G1 and apart from pigeons; this has been one of the most unsettling experiences of my time in London. I met them twice; the first time the blond kid in the VERY large stroller didn’t make a sound and seemed rather harmless, but on the second ride he was kicking the other passengers whilst screaming (very screechy noise not making my ears happy) and eating a dirty baby-wipe… Why do children put everything into their mouths, am I missing something, are you actually suppose to let them eat paper and dirt? Anyway the mother of the beard-lady is dirty and greasy but she doesn’t have a beard, she makes me feel sad but she doesn’t inspire any other (compassionate or not) feelings whatsoever. Beard-lady on the other hand, well first of all she has a beard.
Now let’s dwell on that for a moment. Cause’ I took the G1 on another day and met a very cool Indian (I want to say priest…) man, and he had a beard. It went all the way down to the chest and was majestically divided in two, in different shades of black and grey. On top of this highly impressive hair growing from his chin he had a white turban (for a moment I did think this was the bus to Aladdin and flying carpets) and not only was it a white turban, it was also a mobile-telephone-holder. He thus answered his phone, stuffing it in between his ear and the turban and was talking free handed. A perfect hand-set solution, the turban. Comes in different colours. Now this Indian man priest made a big impression, and that day I was secretly sad I would never be able to grow a fancy pants beard like that. But then I met the beard-lady, she did not exactly make me feel the same way. The beard-lady has greasy hair, greasy skin, dirty clothes, dirty bare feet in sandals, a son that eats dirty baby-wipes whilst kicking and screeching and she has a beard. Now I am not trying to offend women with heavy hair growth, but this beard seemed to have a life on its own. It wasn’t even and it wasn’t just a shade of darkness on her chin. It was a beard, like having eaten too much chocolate or liquorice or other dark coloured food that gets stuck on your face and chin… This beard was a proper untrimmed woman beard, and beard-lady didn’t seem to be aware of any of this. Not the screeching, kicking child, not the greasy mother, not her greasy self and definitely not the beard. And I felt bad, partly because I vomited a little bit in my mouth, partly because I felt pity and because I knew, on both those rides, that even though I would like to be able to say the opposite, I was judging them. I was also contemplating how much a pocket mirror would tear up this woman’s budget, but then maybe the prize on pocket mirrors has boomed through the roof, or she comes from a world where mirrors are made by the devil… So what does it say about me that I had to concentrate very hard doing yoga breathings focusing on the beauty of life (because that’s what you focus on when you try to focus on something else) to take my mind off beard-lady? That I am a shallow cold-hearted existence, judging people on a set of rules predefined by a society where (sadly) it is the exterior that counts? And it does, yes it does. Even though I do know people whom I find unattractive at a first glance, but when I get to know them better they blossom into beautiful creatures. Or the other way around, a dirty personality can take away what you thought at a first glance to be incredibly pretty. We don’t really want to admit it, but it does matter! So yes I did judge and you are free to judge me for judging, but I honestly think that everyone even the most giving and loving and good-hearted person would end up with a tiny amount of vomit in their mouth at the sight of beard-lady (and that tyrant of a child). I’m trying to think of something positive to through in now in the end to make me look a tiny bit better after all this judgment but I cannot seem to grasp any ideas apart from the fact that ugliness can also make you feel extremely good about yourself, so it was definitely not a wasted bus ride!
All this to emphasize the awareness a bus ride can cause, it can be most unsettling but it can also be an extremely enjoyable pleasure. Therefore, next time you get on a bus (and please do), look around you, oh and buy the hand-set turban, I heard in hipster world that they’re on their way back.