The 312 bus route from Tenterden to Rye is a fairly short one - it only takes about half an hour, and Laura and I both fancied a few hours pootling around Rye, which is a gorgeous town full of interesting shops, ancient historical buildings, lovely places to eat and gorgeous views. So we looked up the timetable online and saw that the bus left Tenterden at approximately ten minutes past the hour all morning, so we knew roughly what time we were supposed to be up there at the stop. As we got there we double-checked the timetable and saw that the time had changed from 11:10 to 11:23. No big deal. So we're a few minutes early. So what?
Well, the reason for the change was that the route had been taken over from Coastal Coaches by Stagecoach buses. Again, no big deal. But the route was taken over a mere three days ago, on the 31st of July.
All the while we were ingesting this information, we had noticed that a rather loud-voiced lady and her two granddaughters were waiting at the stop, and the lady had been talking with other waiting passengers also. Loudly. Annoyingly. When 11:23 rolled around, she started in with, "Well, the bus isn't here girls! I don't know how we're going to get home! Tut-tut! Tsk tsk! We might have to call and get a taxi! Terrible service isn't it girls?!?" and this other vociferous woman was nodding in agreement with her, "Oh yes! Terrible service! We ought to write and complain about this atrocious abomination!!" and other such sentiments. A few more minutes went by, and they then enlisted the help of a rather stinky-looking fellow who appeared to be carrying his entire world with him (three heavy jackets - camo jackets - on a hot summer day? really?) who also started joining in loudly, "Oh yes, we should definitely all of us band together and send floods of letters to their head office! And say things like I'd rather have NO service than service like THIS!!" etc. All the while Laura and I were thinking, "Shut up, it's a bus - they show up sooner or later."
After a short while, at about 11:40, a bus appeared along the High Street, looking suspiciously like the 312. Yes, it was the 312! Rejoice and be happy, for our charabanc has arrived! Huzzah!
Alas, it was not to be. The 312 parked itself across the street (which is normal - it drops passengers off there and then comes across the street to us, usually). The stinky fellow was dispatched to investigate the cause of the 312's tardiness. He came back after a few moments to inform the assembled throng that the bus in question was not the 312 any more but in fact had magically transformed into the 340 service to Hastings. The crowd were aghast. The lady with the grandkids was incensed, and so was her purple-shirt-wearing friend. So much so that when the poor humble bus driver came across the road to pick up riders for Hastings, the group, which by now was resembling an angry mob, approached him and quizzed the fellow as to why the service was so poor, and that they were all going to write to their MPs and the BBC and Phillip Schofield to get something done about it. Bah! Dear Sir, I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms etc., Sincerely, Angry of Tenterden.
The driver, anxious to keep to his by-now buggered schedule, picked up those who wished to travel to the wilds of darkest Hastings and put the pedal to the metal. Wisely, I feel.
At this the woman with the grandkids once again reiterated to her charges that she just did NOT know WHAT she was going to do to get them home, she'd HAVE to call for a taxi, etc. The kids, of course, were completely oblivious to all of this and were having a grand old time chasing each other and hitting the lamp post with sticks. We, on the other hand, were wishing she WOULD call a taxi and shut up.
Another bus rumbled up the High Street. This was the 340 from Hastings, which magically changed into the 312 to Rye as soon as he deposited his passengers on the other side of the street. As he came over the mob surged forward. Each and every one of them deemed it necessary to have an extended conversation about the state of affairs as they entered the bus and purchased their tickets. By the time it came to our turn to get on, we just looked at him and he at us, and we just made our purchase and sat down. Clearly what had happened was that the drivers, being from a different bus company than the one that had previously operated the route, were all learning the routes and stops etc. and this was naturally eating up time and causing the buses to be late. It's understandable. But the woman with the small people in tow sat at the back of the bus with the smelly chap and continued to treat the service with loud derision and complaints. Thankfully they got off in Wittersham, and the remainder of the passengers breathed a collective sigh of relief.
After a few lovely hours in Rye, we meandered back to the bus stop and waited for our bus. As it arrived, the driver went over to another bus in front where another driver was showing him the route he was going to have to take on the new bus. Then the other driver came over to our bus and took over. Meanwhile a couple of official-looking guys in hi-vis jackets, short-sleeved white shirts and carrying clipboards moved frantically from bus to bus to ensure that each driver was on the correct bus and they each knew the routes they were to take. On the way home the driver had to ask passengers that wanted to get off in Iden where the actual stop was as he was a tad unfamiliar with the journey. Again, these are all natural occurrences when you change bus companies literally overnight. It just seems to be the British way to complain unnaturally long and loudly about things that essentially we have no control over, and to tackle the people that are just cogs in the machine and cannot control what is happening any more than they can.
British people! Listen to me! Chill the hell out! It's just a bus ride. There'll be another one along in a minute.