The big risk of having a disability is that you can't get out and you end up feeling isolated. I can't drive with my disability and I can't walk particularly far so this is how I get about. My bus pass is a life saver, I can afford to go and do things, can do shopping, see friends. It's pretty important to me because I'd be isolated otherwise, it definitely helps with depression and my anxiety gets bad if I'm feeling isolated. There's a social thing about travelling on the bus, although many of the people that I used to know on the buses have moved away or started driving, but I do bump into people and it's a less isolating way to travel. One of the big risks of being limited in going out and not being able to do things that most people take for granted is that you can become isolated. I worry a lot about becoming isolated. For all it's faults you can get around and live your life and do a lot of things just with buses.
A bus journey gives me headspace to transition between being all of the different roles in my life – mum, worker, friend, and to process the changes throughout my day. I've always been a committed pedestrian and passenger, but there are times when I've had to commute maybe eight buses in a day to organise childcare and work, so I spend a lot of time travelling. I enjoy the freedom that I have on the buses to spend time with my children, to talk to them, to play with them, to read books, to talk to people, to talk to people in my community, it can be a really liberating, enjoyable experience. I often catch up with people who are on my bus route, friends I haven't seen for a while, people I work with, people whose children go to the same school as my children, it's a place to maintain relationships. In this day and age you're sending emails, you're on your phone, organising, sending text messages, doing life admin on the bus. I think it’s a pity, a waste of a bus journey when you don't need to be doing anything you could just sit on a comfy seat and enjoy the ride.
When I first moved to Leeds I was quite lonely and didn't know anyone, I was having to build my life up from nothing, so I got on the bus. When you're a kid you travel on public transport and it's your gateway to the world. You see and meet people you'd never see otherwise, from different backgrounds and walks of life, and its quite interesting in that way. For me when I was growing up one of the things about buses that was important was that when I could travel on my own on the bus that gave me such a sense of pride and freedom. When I was a teenager I lived in a village and the nearest town was Keighley which was a bit of a wrong turn sort of a place but I could get the bus to Bradford and Leeds and do things I couldn't do where I lived. There's been times in my life where I've really needed to go to places to meet people and feel connected, and catching the bus has always been part of that.
Say hello and smile; it changes folks’ day, because a smile always does. Being on a bus is a journey and all of life is a journey, so it's interesting to have conversations. As Whitman says, ‘People are only a stranger until you say hello.’ So, say hello, do it with a smile, it changes folks’ day, because a smile always does. You can usually tell watching people’s faces how they are feeling: are they tense; do they need any help; are they struggling with language and need support buying a ticket? I think, let's have a conversation because it might be the only conversation that person has all day. Human contact is so important.
I can walk out of my door and get on a bus and go anywhere, that sense of freedom stops me feeling trapped when life seems difficult. The furthest I've been on a bus is to south Poland, it took hours and hours. I was nineteen and it was my first holiday without my family and it gave me an enormous sense of freedom. I've always remembered that, and hold on to the feeling that from my own doorstep I can walk out and get on a bus, then another bus, then another bus and then I can be in so many different places. It helps me to keep this life and this world that I'm living in in perspective. Sometimes life is challenging, juggling work and money and relationships, and unexpected problems that can be stressful and difficult, it helps to remember that there are many different lives and different worlds out there. The world is big, and when your own world feels like it is closing in on you, you can go somewhere else and see things differently.
If you don't see many people and you're lonely, it helps because you have contact with people. I think it does you good to go on the bus. If you're a bit depressed or upset get a Dayrider and go somewhere. We used to go to the Polish Club and there was always lots of family there so our parents would let us go, but then we moved and had to get the bus which would drop us of at the Fforde Greene pub, then we had to walk home from there. I remember when the news broke and they were looking for the Ripper. Me and my sister used to watch the news and just hoped my Mum and Dad wouldn't see it because they'd stop us going. We got away with it for a year, but then Dad had to drive us. We just felt like it stopped us doing what we wanted to do, we knew it was bad but I don't think at the time I understood how bad it was. After that it changed, we couldn't go out as much as we used to.
Being on the bus gives me confidence, I can go on my own, and I know I can get from A to B quicker than in a car. On a single decker I always sit behind the driver and talk to them if it's not busy but I like to sit upstairs. I feel safer upstairs and can see more. I'm tall so on the decker I can spread out, I have more room, the single deckers are small. I like to listen to music when I'm on the bus which is OK if the driver knows where they're going. If the driver doesn't know my route then I stand by the cab and help them. The other day there was a new driver from Newcastle and he asked me if I'd help him so I showed him the route. I know it better than they do.
I can't really figure stuff out unless I go round the houses, like on a bus journey. I had to get a bus very early every Sunday morning for my new job and I noticed a different side of the city. When I was going out to work people where still on their night out and that would have been me before. It was a hidden life, a hidden world. People were falling asleep because they'd been working all night, or were just on their way to work. It gave me a new view, a new perspective, I appreciated things I took for granted before. I didn't feel so alone, I felt part of something. I only had to do it for a few months but afterwards I felt like a different person.
I like the bus. I like seeing the people change at different times of day, everyone grumpy going to work in the morning, then the kids going wild when they get out at three o'clock because they've been in school all day, and the old people don't like it, but they were the same when they were kids. The bus is a miniscule universe in itself, you've got to be compassionate, you've got to put up with all sorts of unsociable stuff so it teaches you to be compassionate and it teaches you that we're all in it together socially. Someone gets on the bus and opens a big bag of chips and my first reaction is that food isn't allowed on the bus but rather than just shout down their ear 'this isn't a restaurant' you have to think that maybe she's just worked an eighteen hour shift and needs a bag of chips. You never know what's happened to people before they get on the bus.
Being on the bus is pure escapism. When I have early shifts I look forward to that forty-five minutes of acclimatising to the world with the hum. It's really settling. The nice thing about using the buses a lot is that I get to recognise people. I say hello to most, but think that on the bus you have the luxury of letting on to someone you recognise, or if you're not exactly feeling sociable then you can sit and do something useful. Even pretending to be busy or sat towards the back with your headphones on or immersed in a book. It's a very unique social situation, linking people all the time, hopping on and off. A metaphor for life I suppose.
Buses make me feel grounded. I like to free my mind and tend to people watch the dynamics of how people interact. It makes me feel grounded as I recognise everyone on the bus has complex lives. I find space on the bus and use it as quiet time to collect thoughts. I am introverted and travel time provides a stress free time where I know I don't need to be social but where I can quietly watch the world. Seeing Leeds, remembering roads, looking at the slow evolution of buildings, road signs, shops, people. I see being on a bus, more than a train, an opportunity to be close to the city or area I am in and understand it.
You need to get time out, away from everything, to not be bothered and the bus is quite good for that because you don't have to answer to anybody, you can just sit there. I use the buses a lot to get away from where I usually work, to get a new perspective. I like to paint people so it's great to get to the nitty gritty of how people are living their everyday lives, you're almost part of someones life for perhaps a couple of minutes and then they get off and other people get on. It's really the most multicultural place in Leeds because you'll see so many different people. It's good to get out, you can't stay in all the time, well I can't anyway, I tend to get a bit bogged down if I'm at home all the time.