Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...



Sydney's busses are pretty good. They are well used and generally reliable. During rush hour they are crowded to the point of bursting but at the weekends and during even slightly off-peak hours they revert to the normal status of bus networks everywhere i.e. sinkholes for the hopeless, the disenfranchised and the truly strange.

The hopeless largely manifest themselves as people who don't know where they're going or which bus they need to get there. They resort to stopping every bus that comes past to ask exactly the same set of questions, receive negative answers and be told they need to get a different bus. This absolutely exasperating if you have any kind of desire to reach your destination at all. It is only the hung-over look of the people attempting this that holds me back from bellowing at them to stop wasting everybody's time and read the bus timetable handily displayed at the stop.

Other forms of public transport have their nutters but they simply don't have the strength in depth of bus nutters. I'm not just talking about people who mutter a bit and aren't particularly socially able. I'm talking about people who are genuinely odd. There is a guy who gets the bus from Maroubra who must be an urban Witch Doctor. He is probably six feet tall, even before putting the boots on. Naturally he dresses head to foot in black and is covered in totally artless tattoos (spider's webs, inverted pentagrams, you've seen it before). He also wears dreamcatcher earings (black), a skirt (black) and has the habit of starting conversations with people without warning and whether they happen to be there or not.

Perhaps busses are treated as territory by odd people and they feel that they have to patrol their routes regularly. Maybe they are some kind of staging area or display ground for a contest in who can be the strangest. If they are, the prize in the heavyweight class has to go to the lesbian couple whose combined weight must be 200kg (a bit over 30 stones). One of them is clearly an avid sports fan, I have never seen her wear anything other than AFL shirts and necessarily loose fitting jeans. She too is covered in tattoos whose locations probably had more to do with the relative sobriety of the wearer than actual choice.

She has rather fetching haircut with a plaited rat’s tail at the top and shaved sides that makes you think she aspires to being an Amazonian Indian. Though I doubt the rainforest has quite enough lollies for her. Her partner is by far the larger of the two. If she wishes to exit the bus she has to do so without turning around as attempting this manoeuvre in the narrow gangway of the bus would wrap her nameless flabbier extremities around the interior of the bus, potentially smothering fellow passengers. She is otherwise remarkable in that she seems to dress entirely in second hand clothing. Presumably the off-casts of people who have now become thin. Just how many obese lesbians must there be out there to generate a second hand clothes market?!

None of these people are particularly intimidating or scary but there is one passenger that everybody fears. She joins the bus between Maroubra and Coogee. She is docile and keeps herself to herself not even muttering. Sadly she reeks to high heaven of some noxious chemical quite clearly designed to repel the inevitable infestations to her unsanitary person. Her long grey hair is stained a revolting yellow, her clothes cannot now be dated, warped as they are by her lumpen form. Should smells one day become visible this woman will be trailed by an acrid choking green-brown trail.

She seems to be totally unaware that the cloud she lives in brings tears to the eyes and may well be hazardous in poorly ventilated areas. Whenever she is on the bus I find myself wondering if her olfactory sense failed before the smell, or because of the smell. She lives in a scentless world where everyone mutters and coughs behind her back. My sympathy goes out to her, kind of.

The real reason most of these people have to get the bus is, because of whatever reason, they should not be allowed anywhere near a car. In the case of the last passenger because she would suffocate very quickly being entirely oblivious of the toxins building to deadly levels in the air around her. The two lesbians would take hours to get into and out of the car; in fact I doubt that anything without sliding doors would even work for them. The Witch Doctor who talks to absent friends is also liable to stop to allow them to cross the road making him a deadly hazard to other road users. These are people deemed by society to be too strange to drive.

Post script
The part of me that enjoys antagonising idealists (i.e. my brain) wants to point out that the bus is by far the cheapest way around any city and as such, broadly speaking it represents the social underclasses. It will probably go on to point out that trains, whilst nearly as affordable, are slightly more expensive and travel further afield to far more affluent suburbs. After that it will hopefully run out of ideas as the last thing the world needs is a tongue in cheek Marxist theory of commuting. Fin


  1. Just in case you thought the contrary, Japan has no shortage of nutters, and what better place to showcase your psychosis than public transport?

    I've encountered one particularly vivid specimen - a rotund, slightly hirsute lady with a wide grin that, although would have been lovely on the right face, only served to make her that bit weirder.

    She was engaged in trying to take the cap off one of those dubious "pep" drinks (of which there are many), her ongoing struggle punctuated with ethereal noises somewhere between wailing, baying and world weary yet jolly sighing. The strength of her chugs after the opened the bottle would have made Geiger shudder.

  2. and today, an alcoholic who had spent all his money the night before tried to sell me a watch.

  3. I would have thought that weirdos in Japan are in a completely different class. Japanese bus weirdos are probably so peculiar as to need a different name.
    They probably have one though. Your mission of theweek is to find out the specific Japanese word for bus weirdos.

  4. Dear god, you really make Sydney sound attractive. I take the bus to work every day in winter (bike these days in summer - for the fitness it's supposed to bring) and I hardly ever see any of what you describe; just Dutch people. Hmm, well, yes, maybe I see what you mean after all.

  5. As I remember the whole population of the netherlands uses the busses, so by extension, and as you point out, an entire nation of bus weirdos!

    Don't get me started on cyclists, it won't be pretty!

  6. OK, here we go...the phrase I have cobbled together is "basu no kichigaijin", literally meaning "crazy person of the bus".