Keeping busy on the bus

As I approach my late(ish) 30s, I feel that us bus w*nkers are a dying breed, amongst my demographic anyway.  Most are drivers, the others smart enough to score jobs close to home. Not me. I spend on average 10 hours a week riding the 45, one of the busiest and most congested routes in Birmingham.

That’s a lot of hours to sit and do nothing. Not that I subscribe to the very modern notion that we need to fill every second of our lives engaged in STUFF.  Watch any supermarket queue or outdoor coffee shop seating area and you will see everyone staring at their phones, using the time to check up on news, email, Twitter, what Facebook friends are having for lunch etc. No, I’m all for a precious bit of pure daydreaming time, tuning out and relaxing the mind. But the bus commute is not that time; even if the pungent stench of super strong marijuana does occasionally make me feel a little fuzzy.

Staring at one’s phone is definitely the number one pastime of my fellow passengers. Closely followed by reading the Metro or paperbacks, listening to music or indulging in anti-social behaviour. Which is why knitting is such a boon; it allows you to avoid eye contact and therefore unwanted confrontation. Of course, people who talk to you on the bus don’t always want to kick your face in or bring you to Jesus. Sometimes they want to know what you are knitting. I LOVE THIS. Not enough people knit, or even appreciate the craft and give it the respect it deserves (Shreddies grannies, I’m looking at you), and I am on a constant mission to spread the woolly love. I’ve had some wonderfully warm and friendly chats with people through my knitting, I value how it can bring people together.

But commuter knitting is not for the fainthearted. You have to have a thick skin at times. A while ago whilst sitting in routine traffic, two teenage girls were pointing and giggling, calling me ‘sad’ and asserting that ‘some people have far too much time on their hands’. Then they sat doing nothing for another twenty minutes as we sat stationary in the jam. Whatever.

You also have to be pretty flexible. Not in a roll-with-it, up-for-anything kind of way, but as in physically bendy. Knitting on a busy bus can take some contorting, especially if you sit on that weird seat halfway on the lower deck with the jutting wheel arch. You will generally have to keep one arm still and let the other do all the work. As a yarn thrower, I find this challenging.  I tend to go for an aisle seat and hope I don’t elbow anyone standing in the crotch. I also get a monthly shoulder massage. I figure I’d need it anyway even if I were a phone gazer: The very act of riding the bus is stressful enough. Small projects are the best for this kind of activity, and a circular needle will minimise potential injury to other passengers.

Finally, you will struggle if you have any standards of cleanliness whatsoever. I can tolerate an unusually high level of grub, I think mainly down to my constant public transport use over the years. Use a big handbag to keep your yarn in and have it on your lap. You will not, I repeat WILL NOT, want your lovingly wound ball of superfine alpaca cashmere blend falling on the filthy floor and rolling in Greggs pasty crumbs, kebab sauce and/or vomit.

My time is precious. I am currently in a deep cycle of guilt about my stupid working hours and the time I spend with my beautiful children. I can’t justify the long hours of recreational knitting I used to enjoy, and come 9pm I’m fit for bed. Commuter knitting offers me the chance to churn out beautiful scarves, socks and hats, all which serve me well on those draughty February buses.

Give it a try. I recommend it.

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