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The Driver Trusts Me

Tripadvisor Review posted by user SeanMorl on July 2nd 2019.

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Tripadvisor Review posted by user SeanMorl on July 2nd 2019

National Express have just rolled out a new model of coach! The differences are slight yet effective: improved air conditioning, seat-back USB charging ports and a higher grade upholstery.

However, many of these changes I found hard to appreciate during my last journey because the moment we pulled out onto the M1 the vehicle accelerated up to speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour.

If you've never experienced a coach stretched beyond its capabilities I cannot recommend it. We weaved between lanes. Our back half careered lazily from side to side as the tyres struggled to reassert their grip. Bumps or minor variations in road surfaces sent lightning jolts through the carriage as passengers and baggage tumbled dangerously into the centre aisle. I applaud the quality-of-life upgrades to the vehicle, but this new policy of accelerating and maintaining a life-threatening top speed sours the entire experience.

We need people like you. I'll absolutely look into it.

The principal trial of public transport is sharing a space with other people. Now, I love people. That's a principle I often cite even though it isn't backed up by anything and I refuse to consider that I feel differently. And yet I rarely speak to others while in transit. When you're within body odour range of an unknown party it is better to be strangers than spend hours in the wreckage of an abortive friendship.

These were exceptional circumstances so the gravity of the situation compelled me to speak up. Peering over the seat tops and shouting over the aisles, I asked if someone ought to say something. Only about 10% of the passengers responded. Others looked away, were on headphones, unconscious, or all of the above. Those who did call back were vocally in favour of someone 'having a word', with the unspoken implication that the role of word-haver was already mine.

Two things struck me as I approached the driver's cabin. The first was his carefully-managed calm smile, betrayed by the thick globules of sweat reaching and disappearing over his top lip and deep into the recesses of his mouth. The other was that he was continually turning the steering wheel clockwise and anticlockwise at small regular intervals, the way a child would mime driving a car. Accordingly, the coach was snaking into neighbouring lanes in a dangerous but predictable manner that other motorists had, for the most part, learned to predict and accommodate. I did my best to explain the situation to him in a measured and reasonable tone which did nothing to convey the urgency of the situation but made me appear rational.

He flashed me a winning smile, looked me directly in the eyes and said, "You've got a good head on your shoulders. We need people like you. I'll absolutely look into it." He maintained eye contact, unblinking, and I could feel his respect like it was a physical force patting and stroking my tired body. The driver trusts me.

I returned his smile and felt a sensation like hot lucozade to my lymph nodes. I felt invigorated. The driver trusts me. I had felt so nervous but he confirmed that I was right to have a quiet word with him. I can trust the driver and he, in turn, trusts me. I felt an emotion that was to love as love is to boredom.

I made my way back to my seat and explained to people that everything was in hand. The problem was being dealt with, I explained. The driver has everything under control. We can trust the driver and, finishing off the sentence in my head, the driver trusts me. I can't let him down. A few rogue elements of the chattering classes weren't satisfied with my explanation, pointing out of the window at the ever-snaking vehicle and the wreckage left in our wake. I'm happy to confirm that these people were dealt with swiftly and appropriately. The driver trusts me. I can't let him down.

Overall this journey scores a 10 for comfort, an 11 for danger and a whopping 13 for improving my personal self-esteem. Would ride again.

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