Bob had been driving a taxi for twelve years. His mother told him when he was young that people are always going somewhere. She told Bob that for this reason the smart man finds a profession where he can help people get where they want to go. Mother said that if you can help people get where they are going, you will always have work.
Bob had always listened very carefully to mother. This particular advice was one that he would never forget. It was so logical, so smart.
So when Bob was fifteen or sixteen, he spent months and months thinking how he could help people get where they wanted to go. He stayed awake many a night. He couldn’t concentrate at school because he was preoccupied with this problem.
When his friends were out chasing girls, Bob was at home thinking what he should become when he grows up. Well, to be frank, it was also a good excuse for Bob not to go out and chase girls, because he was a little afraid of them. He didn’t know how to talk to girls. He hadn’t ever really tried. But he didn’t care. Bob knew that the smart man finds a good job before going after girls. Mother had always said that a woman is the real devil, and if the man doesn’t have money, she will eventually find someone else.
One day Bob was strolling in the city, and a sharp-dressed man was walking hastily towards him. The man was talking to his cell phone and carrying a leather briefcase in his left hand. He was wearing fancy looking brown leather shoes and in his wrist there was a big golden watch. He seemed to be in a great hurry. He was almost running.
As the man passed him, Bob heard the man almost yell to the person who was on the other end of the telephone line, “I must get to the airport asap. My flight is at three, and it’s already half past one! Okay, there’s a taxi, I gotta hang up now, bye.” Then the man raised his hand and shouted “TAXI!” and a black taxicab pulled over to the curb and the man jumped in.
That was the moment when it hit him. Then and there Bob knew what he had to become when he grows up — a taxi driver.
Bob did become a taxi driver. At eighteen years of age he was driving a taxi and boy was he enjoying it. Even though mother was already dead, Bob knew she would be proud. He was helping people get where they wanted to go.
For many years Bob drove his taxi and helped people get where they were going. He liked it very much. But as years passed, Bob started to feel that he could do so much more. Driving a taxi he was helping at best four people at a time, and a big part of his customers were drunken people who needed to get home after a night out. Bob was getting tired of the noisy and sometimes pukey people.
Bob was now almost thirty years old, and he felt a change could do good. For some time he had been enviously looking out of his taxi window when waiting in red lights. He would be waiting for the lights to turn green, and suddenly something would come and block the sunlight from the side. He would turn his head and see this great big vehicle approach and stop beside his taxi. A bus.
It was so high that he could barely see the driver. “He is so lucky,” Bob thought. “He is helping dozens of people at the same time get where they want to go, and I can do a handful at best.”
For one or two years it matured in him. The idea of a real change. He knew it was a bit audacious, but he just couldn’t live with the feeling of inferiority that always arose in him when he saw a big Mercedes or a Volvo cruising along the road carrying tens of happy people simultaneously. Sometimes Bob would take a bus ride just to go and sit behind the driver and to see how lovely it would be. He would look at the bouncing driver seat and the big steering wheel, and he would look at the long lines of passenger seats and the happy faces of the passengers.
“One day,” he always thought.
And one day that day came. Bob had received the required instructions and completed the necessary examinations, and he had earned his permit to drive a real bus. He had applied to a long-haul bus company called ‘Gavin’s Comfy Coaches’, and he was chosen. Bob was exhilarated. If only mother was still around so Bob could tell her.
Yes, Bob’s mother died when he was twelve. She was a bad smoker, and after every cigarette she used to suck a throat lozenge to get the bad taste off her mouth. Then one day she heard from some friend that in Sweden they have this new pastille called ‘STINKDRÅPARE’. It was three or four times bigger than what she usually sucked. She ordered two boxes of STINKDRÅPARE from Sweden. They arrived a week later and she wanted to try it out immediately. She went for a cigarette and after took one Swedish pastille. She was so enthusiastically sucking the tasty STINKDRÅPARE that it suddenly slipped down to her bronchus. It was so big that it got stuck there. Mother choked to death.
It was the first day at the wheel of a bus. A dream-come-true. Bob was already sitting on his driver’s seat an hour before the day’s first journey. He was caressing the steering wheel, feeling the pedals, checking the dashboard, adjusting the mirrors, and pacing back and forth to see that the passenger area was clean and ready for his first customers.
Twenty-one passengers had reserved seats for this journey. It was more than he could transport by five tours on his taxicab. Bob was excited, and also a little anxious.
It was quarter to eight, and the first passengers slouched towards the bus. Bob went out to put their luggage to the luggage compartment. He was very professional. He greeted everyone courteously and wished them welcome. Bob was all smiles. “Mother would be so proud,” he thought.
The clock hit eight o’clock and according to his list every passenger was on board. He turned the key and the middle aged Mercedes growled as the engine started. Bob set the first gear and pressed the pedal and the car was moving.
Bob has gotten a paper from the secretary where read everything he should say to the passengers during the journey. He had been practising it for two weeks to get every word spot-on. He looked at the microphone and felt a slight trepidation. It was something totally different so speak to a couple of drunken people in a taxi than to more than twenty passengers through a microphone.
He moved the microphone near his mouth and started to speak, “Good morning everyone,” Bob announced with a monotonous, official voice. “Welcome to Gavin’s Comfy Coaches, my name is Bob, and I will be your driver for this trip. Our destination today is Gloucester, where we will be arriving at around noon. Our following stops are at Slough, Wokingham, Reading, Calcot, Westbrook, Baydon, Badbury, Covingham, Cricklade, Stratton, Birdlip, Little Witcombe, and before we arrive at our destination, Brockworth.”
Bob was sounding more and more like an automatic reading machine.
“The toilet is located at the rear end of the vehicle. There’s a free Wi-Fi onboard, and the password is ‘fopdoodle’, all with lowercase letters. As you can see, the sun is shining and the temperature outside is rather pleasant. It is expected that there won’t be any change as we arrive in Gloucester. If you have any questions or worries during the trip, just come over to the front and I will try to help you to the best of my abilities. Now please fasten your seat belts and enjoy the journey.”
Bob glanced at the rear-view mirror to see how the passengers reacted. He didn’t see anyone because the seats were so high. Only someone’s legs were sticking out over the armrest to the passage.
The first trip went smoothly. Bob successfully transported twenty-one passengers to their destinations.
Days passed and days became months. Five days a week Bob would transport dozens of passengers all across the country to where they wanted to get. He felt more or less satisfied. Over time, though, Bob started to feel like helping all those passengers by bus wasn’t actually that different from when he was driving a taxi. Mother had said many times that people are always going somewhere, and “you must help them get where they want to go.” That, she had said, was the secret to happiness.
Gradually it became a routine, and the excitement wore off. He reminisced the days when he was transporting tipsy people from some bar at four o’clock in the morning. The people were always so jolly. But these people on the bus, they seemed indifferent.
For nine years Bob drove the bus with a very professional touch. He always read his lines without error and everyone got to their destination safely and mostly on time. Often he would see a long train sweep past him on the rails, twice or thrice as fast as his bus, and he thought, “Boy, that train operator must be so happy. He is transporting so many people from one place to another so quickly. I can only go sixty miles an hour at best, and he can go one hundred and fifty.”
Bob became sad. He was just a bus driver, able to help at best a couple dozen people at a time, and the top speed of his vehicle was not something to brag about. At least when he was driving a taxi, people would talk to him. The passengers on the bus never came to talk to him. He couldn’t even see their faces from the mirror. And besides, he was a bit pissed at repeating the same mechanical line every time. No one ever even listened to him.
Bob was now almost forty years old, and he started to doubt mother’s wisdom. Maybe she didn’t really know what she was talking about. Helping people arrive at their destination didn’t feel that special anymore. And he wasn’t even being paid that much for it. In fact, he was making less money as a bus driver than he made when he drove a taxi. And driving a bus was so boring because the road was mostly a long straight with only little twists and turns. Driving a taxi in the city was much more exciting.
On the day when Bob turned forty, he had the morning route to Bradford. For a few months he had been dwelling in a state that was like a mix of melancholy, anger and sense of opportunity. It had done something to Bob. He felt like he was a different person altogether that morning. He was no longer that stiff and overtly formal bus driver. He was more like Bob, he thought.
As the passengers were all seated and the engine started, Bob pressed the gas pedal and made the Mercedes move northward.
Bob moved the microphone close to his mouth and started to speak, “How do you do, dear passengers. This is your captain speaking. I am Bob. This morning we are going to Bradford. We have some two dozen stops along the way, so don’t worry, you will probably get where you want to go. Do or do not fasten your seat belts. I don’t really care. Or actually, don’t do it. Don’t fasten your seat belts. And by the way, we have a Wi-Fi onboard. The password is ‘DOPFOODLE’, all with uppercase letters. You know, I could say anything here, but you wouldn’t listen to me anyway. What ever. Have a hilarious trip.”
Bob pushed the microphone aside and glanced at the mirror above him. He saw a woman bent to the side from behind the row of seats, looking directly at him, looking puzzled. He looked away, to the road, a little ashamed of his colloquial announcement.
For thirty minutes or so, Bob was fixed on the road. He thought about mother. He looked at the microphone and thought about the woman he saw through the mirror. Bob moved the microphone back in front of his mouth.
“My mother always told me that people are always going somewhere. She told me that I should find a job where I can help people get where they want to go. She said that if I can find a job like that, I will always have work. Well, she was right on that one. I have always had work. But she also said that it is the path to happiness, to help people get to their destination. For more than twenty years I believed that. But now I’m not sure anymore. Yes, people are always coming and going, hurrying towards some destination. That I have seen during my twenty-two years as a chauffeur. And even when I have been helping them get where they want to go, I’m not sure if I have actually helped them at all. When they arrive in one destination, two days later they are already going to the next one. All this bloody coming and going. Everybody rushing all the time.”
Bob looked at the mirror and now saw at least five people looking at him.
“Is life just one destination after another? Sometimes I feel that we are always running towards some destination but never really arriving. Or even if we arrive, soon we must depart again. But must we really? Or is it just that we are unable to truly arrive? Darn it. I watched a documentary on Discovery some weeks ago. They showed how the monkeys is some Asian forest have no home anymore, because people have cut down all the trees. Bloody hell. I watched it and I thought how could someone do that? Then I thought that maybe we are in so big a hurry all the time to arrive that we don’t have time to see what’s around us anymore. I mean, look at us. There’s a beautiful sunrise out there, and none of you has probably even noticed it. You are all so fixed on getting to Grantham or Winthorpe or Tickhill or bloody Doncaster that you can’t see the sunrise.”
Through the mirror Bob saw even more people who had risen from behind the seats to listen to him. Many were peeking from the sides.
“I don’t know if my mother was right after all. Or maybe she was, but maybe also our never ending coming and going is making us unhappy. I have been helping people get to their destination for twenty years, and they are still frustrated and sometimes rude. Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever really looked at your constant hurry and what it’s doing to you, to us? Yes, we are heading to a destination, but it seems that the destination never really arrives, or sometimes just for a short moment, and then it’s gone.”
Bob was silent for a little while. He looked at the sunrise as the bus glided on the road. It was truly a beautiful sight. That moment he decided that he is going to quit today.
“What if… What if we are all already arrived? What if our destination is not somewhere over there, but right here? I just got this thought. Darn it. What if we are already at the destination? Where can you go? Even if you are in Manchester or even if you are in Edinburgh or bloody Glasgow, there you are, aren’t you? Where do you have to go other than where you are? Just bloody move the curtains and look out the window to the glorious sunrise. Look at the cows and the meadows. You are already in your destination. Bloody hell.”
There was a moment of silence. Then Bob heard someone start clapping slowly but loudly from the back seats. Another passenger joined the applause. Third. Fourth. Suddenly the entire bus exploded into a boisterous cheering.
“Bloody hell,” Bob thought.
He moved the microphone once more near his mouth and said, “Okay, I lied a little. The Wi-Fi password is really ‘fopdoodle’, all with lowercase letters. I’m sorry. Next up Peterborough.”