Metro 28

Richard Herring: Bus-driving jobsworths continue to fail humanity
An elderly manÂ’s gallant attempt to catch an Edinburgh bus pulled at our resident comedian Richard HerringÂ’s heart strings.

The Edinburgh Fringe continues but, as always, the best performances happen in real life on the streets of this beautiful city. As I walked towards my venue last week, there was a nattily dressed old fella approaching from the other direction. Even accounting for the fact he was Scottish, he had to be in his eighties. But he was sprightly.

Suddenly he broke into a trot. You donÂ’t often see a man of this age running but he was doing his best and his best wasnÂ’t bad. It resembled the slow-motion bit from Chariots Of Fire mixed with the bit at the end of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade after (spoiler alert) the bad man drinks from the wrong grail. I was captivated by his old-man jowls, which rocked as he jogged. It filled my soul with delight to see something so unusual and wonderful.

It became clear that this unexpected burst of speed had been precipitated by a bus pulling up at a bus stop, only a few metres away. At his current rate heÂ’d be there in 25 seconds. But I looked round to see doors shutting and the bus pulling away. The gnarled athlete waved and shouted vainly at the bus driver, pleading for him to stop. I know bus drivers have a job to do and have to follow procedure but surely exceptions can be made. The chubby man at the wheel must have noticed the Herculean effort (more impressive and inspiring than anything from our Olympian summer). Just this once, couldnÂ’t he apply the brakes and allow his elder and better to board?

Of course he couldnÂ’t. The bus slowly crawled by and the bus driver looked directly at the auld fella, turning his head as he went, displaying no emotion, just the slightest whiff of contempt. Something amazing was happening but his dead eyes could no longer sense it.

His face was a study in indifference and, like a bus-driving robot (who perhaps secretly dreams that one day he might understand the human emotion of love), he accelerated, clearly enjoying his tiny moment of power over the world. Like a toddler stamping on a worm.

On the back of the bus was an advert that boasted that every vehicle in the Lothian bus fleet has access for the disabled, elderly and for pushchairs. ThatÂ’s all very well but itÂ’s not much use if the drivers donÂ’t have the courtesy to give those people the chance to get on. Even if they are doing their utmost to make it in time.

This was drama more affecting and moving than anything you’ll see in a theatre. Just the old man running was spectacle enough. But as he dashed, his hopes were also dashed – by a man whose only pleasure was to inconvenience others, while no doubt claiming it was more than his job’s worth to bend the rules.

The proud man left on the pavement must have run for enough buses in the past eight decades to know how rare it is to find a driver who would stop, yet still he ran, hoping this might be the one time that a hard and cholesterol-clogged heart melted and the pilot light of compassion ignited.

His optimism was as impressive as his athleticism. Sometimes when you lose, youÂ’re still the winner.

Humanity summed up in ten seconds more effectively than most of us could manage with an hour on stage. Six stars.

See Richard HerringÂ’s Talking Cock: The Second Coming in Edinburgh before he tours the country with a reworking of his smash-hit 2002 show.

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