A British Person Did That – On the Bus

In the Summer of 2005 I was back in America for a few weeks visiting family and friends.  I remember my Dad coming to wake me up one morning.  “London has been bombed.”  I leapt out of bed, not really being sure what level of catastrophe would meet my eyes when I turned them to the TV.  Watching the commuters stumble from the Underground and across the streets, dazed, was certainly a harrowing sight, but I can clearly remember that what struck the news anchors and the American populace most of all was that one by one, they watched the uninjured commuters get back on public transport that day.  When questioned about this response one Brit replied, “We just have to get on with, don’t we?”  It was admirable.  It seemed fearless.  It was Keep Calm and Carry On epitomized.

The story I am about to tell holds in tension the disquieting behaviour of the minority and the completely calm response that seems to be the understood M.O. of the British.

I’ve mentioned before that in the days before and after Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day there are all sorts of criminal offences practical jokes that take place in England that have, in the past, left me a little bit on edge.  That Keep Calm and Carry On attitude of the Brits, while admirable, certainly does carry with it a surprising immovability.  So, here it is…

A British Person Did That (People, in this case):

A few weeks after the bombings I was back in the United Kingdom.  I don’t particularly remembering worrying about public transport, although whether I was at risk may have entered my mind a time or two.  Then, one day in October an American colleague popped by the house flustered and with a bemused look on his face he recounted…..

Colleague:  I was just on a bus on the way home and these kids in the back set off firecrackers ON THE BUS, opened the emergency exit door and ran off.

Me: WHAT?!  That’s crazy!  Must’ve scared the poo out of people.  Did anyone run after them?

Colleague:  No!  Everyone just sat there.  Even the driver.

Me:  What do you mean they just sat there?

Colleague:  No one moved.  The bus filled with smoke.  The driver didn’t even get out to see if everyone was okay.

Me:  What did you do?

Colleague: I sat there for a minute and then the smoke was really bothering me so I got up and went through the whole bus and opened every single window.  (He then raises his hands to his ears and gesticulates, pushing both hands firmly out and away from him over and over again.)

The mental image of my somewhat incensed American friend leaning over these passengers to open their windows while they avoided any form of eye contact or acknowledgement of the incident still makes me crack a smile .

Maybe it’s that they really are that calm.  Maybe the tea really is laced with sedatives.  Or maybe it’s that they had all cacked themselves and didn’t want to move for fear of revealing their soiled bottoms to the whole of the Number 75.  We may never know.

British People Did That.

 

 

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12 thoughts on “A British Person Did That – On the Bus

  1. scribblefingers

    That post cracked me up! I hadn’t even thought about the whole ‘getting back on public transport that day’. Interesting… It’s also true that tea is often the ‘cure-all’ given to people who have suffered injuries. “Oh, that looks nasty! Cup of tea?”

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Yup. Bad days, break-ups, stressful parenting moment, tears, arguments, even death. A cup of tea makes it all seem a little bit easier, huh? It’s a time to sit back and let that blood pressure lower. I swear there is something stronger in it.

      Reply
  2. Expat Mammy

    Sometime I think were too calm, we should be a bit more aggressive then our country would be a sham

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      That’s a fact. The Native says it often. Tea solves everything. (I’m not of that mindset.) I’ve only seen wine brought around once to my in-laws whose neighbour’s back garden caught on fire and they were trying to ward it off from coming over into their garden with a hose. They were obviously quite shaken once the fire services arrived. Tea didn’t seem to be strong enough that day!

      Reply
  3. A Frog at Large

    It’s all about balance and having appropriate reactions isn’t it? To think that no one moved to open the windows until your friend did. I’m usually impressed with how British people just get on with life when scary stuff happens (well, most anyway), but it makes you wonder if you were in trouble somehow, would anyone lift a finger?

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Hmmm. I see your point. I’ve actually been stewing over something I did the other day which I hoped was helpful, but now I’m worried it was interfering because most people here seem to value privacy when out and about more than I would as an American. I’m working on a post (in my head) and hope to have it up soon. It’d be interesting to hear your thoughts once it’s up.

      Reply
  4. The Drug Sniffing Dog

    During the Second World War, when things looked bleak for us here in Blighty, Churchill was asked what he intended to do. ‘I shall keep buggering on’ was his considered response. Which is what I do, in the main, any way. It’s the British way. Tea isn’t what defines us, but it is something we mostly agree on.

    Reply
  5. mum of all trades

    it is interesting how different nationalities deal with things. Here in Ireland we refer to the decades of bombings like this as ‘the troubles’. A slight under statement I think.

    Reply
  6. The Undercover Granny

    I’m surprised that the bus driver didn’t check to see if everyone was okay. I’m also surprised that this is a very British thing but I suppose I shouldn’t be. It’s the mentality of keep calm and it’ll be okay as soon as you can have a cup of tea.

    Reply

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