Route 339

There are two ghost buses on the 339 route.

Daily commuters know that the 9:05 am and 9:14 am buses from Clovelly Road don’t exist, but infrequent travellers are always bemused and then increasingly aggravated as they wait for a bus that will never show up.

“Been waiting thirty minutes!” grumbled one commuter just the other week when I showed up at the bus stop at 9:20am.

The best I could offer him was a smile as a woman sitting at the stop shoots me a knowing look.

Taking the 339 bus route to the city has been a ritual these past four years. I know that the 8:00 am crowd is very different from the 9:00 am crowd. I can pick out faces from the overpacked mass, guess at their occupation and occasionally overhear their conversations with friends over the phone (I don’t mean to, but hey, they have a really loud voice). Their names are a mystery but I’ve rubbed shoulders with them on the bus for a very long time.

At around 8:00 am at the Keith Street bus stop, you’ll hear the clack-clack sound of heels as a blond woman rushes across the street with wet hair (it’s always wet, I don’t know why she doesn’t wake up earlier to dry it). She prefers wearing knee-length skirts and hangs a handbag on the crook of her elbow. She always wears formal clothes, the kind you see in fancy offices in the city where they chat in groups and seem mildly intimidating.

Further along the route a man and his son will climb aboard. I won’t ever forget the first time I noticed them – the dad was wearing a Micky Mouse shirt under a formal business jacket. He wore black glasses, a crooked smile and laid a protective hand on his son’s shoulder. The boy was at the age where his school bag was as big as him.

My favourite commuter is the Harajuku girl on the 9:24 am route. She draws a lot of looks, and she clearly doesn’t mind. Picture blue bubble-gum hair, plastic cakes hanging from her ear lobes, lipstick red glasses and galaxies wrapped around her thighs. Her boyfriend sits next to her, usually wearing black on black on black. They are a very cute couple.

A few weeks ago the Harajuku girl clambered onto the bus, a walking rainbow against the grey and black winter clothing of most commuters, and sat down. Alone. I was flummoxed. Where was her sensibly dressed boyfriend? She leaned to the side, a small space yawning beside her. She looked sad. Or maybe I felt sad for her.

It was a strange and beautiful realisation. A daily commute had turned into an emotional attachment.

A thirty-minute bus ride has you rubbing shoulders against strangers; a wordless exchange of looks and smiles and overheard conversations.

“You know you’re 30 minutes late?” a disgruntled commuter informed the bus driver.

The driver looked confused but humoured him with an apology. It was 9:24 am. He was on time. A few regular commuters share knowing smiles and wordlessly sit down.

I sit at the back of the bus, red earphones plugged in as I watch my daily commuters take a seat.

– Serina Hajje

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