The Megabus has become a modern institution in the UK. For anyone with more time than money their buses criss cross the country transporting passengers at remarkably low cost but with unprecedented discomfort and duration. It would also make an exceedingly easy if unglamorous target for any junior terrorist. Trouble is, blowing up a Megabus would carry about as much kudos as kidnapping Leo Sayer. Furthermore should they fail it would make the terrorist less of martyre than a world famous laughing stock, perhaps only on par with that dedicated incompetante who set himself on fire and drove into Glasgow airport (killing no one except himself
). Besides, who would want to be known as “The Megabus Bomber”?
Nonetheless, Megabus take the terrorist threat extremely seriously. Recently it was reported a man on board was noticed to be emitting a smoke of some kind. Before you could say “Maybe we should ask him or at least take a look before we call the police the anti-terrorist squad, stop the bus and close the motorway” The driver had stopped the bus, called the police and the anti terrorist squad had closed the motorway. The driver no doubt well drilled, took no chances and herded the passengers off the bus and onto the layby where they were “made to wait cross legged” for 4 hours. They eventually set off on their journey again only once the police had confirmed that it was not a bomb but an electronic cigarette and the smoke was in fact just water vapour.
The moustached officer in charge of the operation later deadpanned “Following an initial assessment, we can confirm that no-one has been injured and that there is no danger to passengers at the scene or any other travellers” helpfully assuring reporters that “We are also not treating anyone as a suspect.” The megabus driver was sadly unavailable for comment.
Now this would have all sounded ludicrous to me except I had just a couple of weeks earlier witnessed something not altogether similar on the London Liverpool Megabus. Certainly one can’t fault Megabus drivers’ enthusiasm for battling the trivial.It began abruptly when the driver announced just before departure “I can smell fish on this bus; It is not allowed under Megabus policy to bring fish onto the bus, I am not leaving until the fish has been found and removed!”This sparked something of a witch/fish hunt, for there was widespread agreement that there was indeed a heavy fishy odour hanging in the air. Accusations went flying around “there is woman who went past, at the back I think, who looked like the sort who might be carrying fish”. And so the the driver went sniffing up and down the bus and a carnival atmosphere ensued. That is until he suggested checking everyone’s bags for fish. Then the mob swiftly turned and remembered that they all had to get somewhere. And so it quickly became consensus that there in fact was no fish smell after all. A middle aged woman, bought the episode to close when she loudly suggested that the smell might be emanating from the drivers socks. Amidst much laughter, our humiliated bus driver gave up on the fish hunt and set off.
This contrasts quite sharply with another Megabus journey of mine, this time from Liverpool to London. I ended up sitting next to a youth who must have been the least discreet drug runner imaginable. Within 5 minutes of sitting down he promptly started snorting coke from the fold down table, offering a line to me before showing me his rucksack which he claimed (and I see no reason to doubt) 3kg of the stuff. Sweating profusely, he later repeatedly heckled the driver to stop for a cigarette in the aggressive manner of one clearly under the influence. This warranted little concern or suspicion from the driver who just carried about his business of driving the bus.
I am not sure what lessons can be drawn from these three incidents. Perhaps only that the Megabus is the most exciting mode of transport in the UK today.
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For an amusing headline from the smoking cigarette controversy click here