Published in Maharashtra Herald 'Centre View' on 08 Dec 07
My only perception of Volvo buses was as space occupying behemoths on Pune roads that discharged passengers loaded with baggage at particularly narrow points. Many are the occasions that I have argued with bus staff for their indiscriminate parking. However I have changed my opinion to some extent after travelling to Goa in this vehicle.
I eagerly entered the bus at one such stop located in the heart of the city to be welcomed by comfortingly cool interiors. The bus was very clean and had both semi sleeper and normal seats. Contrary to my expectations there were several pre-departure procedures to be carried out - almost like for air travel. What were lacking were stringent security checks!
After what seemed like a long delay but was only 15 minutes it was wheels rolling! Immediately the TV sprang to life with some mindless movie at top volume. The attendant moved down the aisle distributing blankets to everyone. Next came a bottle of mineral water for each of us. His next offering surprisingly was ‘puke bags’! The blankets were clean and did not have any creepy crawlies residing in them. I hoped the blaring TV would not disturb our sleep but as it turned out later, there was another culprit for it.
As the bus gobbled up kilometres towards Goa we hardly felt the speed inside the cabin. All vertical movements over the bumpy bits treated our bones and joints with respect. Thankfully the attendant switched off the movie at 11 PM and every one nodded off to sleep. I was awakened several times with severe neck pain as my head explored its relationship with gravity, unfettered by conscious control of being held high! I tried lying on my side, which made some difference. Now I know the use of the air filled U shaped contraption available in luggage stores. Worn around the neck it acts like a barrier to this unwanted painful nodding off. Anyway the anticipation of reaching Goa soon served as a balm on my painful muscles.
As the sun rose we reached India’s premier tourist destination. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Goa and were lucky to enjoy some of the IFFI road shows. The return journey was less of a pain in the neck. Maybe my body was somewhat accustomed to it now. Now, I am less vocal with my protests when a Volvo obstructs my path as I too had enjoyed the convenience such halts afforded to city travellers. However I still strongly oppose their plying on city roads at daytime.
A word here about our attendant. He did not have the benefit of any training at any fancy hospitality center nor a flashy uniform. He did his job efficiently with no plastic smile or supercilious expressions. He spoke very little to the passengers yet conveyed all the necessary information. He doubled up as the loader for luggage at bus halts, a cleaner, as guide and marshal to the driver on tricky stretches of the road, helped in refueling and generally did everything. I am sure he also had a brief on how to deal with any emergencies though thankfully I did not need to check his capabilities in that department! All attention was on the driver, the speed he maintained, how he negotiated the super smooth expressway, the potholed road and steep climbing turns. Some passengers’ spoke rudely, argued about window seats yet the attendant handled them calmly. I did not even ask his name or care to thank him at the end of the journey.
This is a sharp contrast from an air journey where the cabin crew makes more of an impact and passengers too behave differently towards them. We hardly even remember names of the pilots who actually ferry the aircraft.
The bus attendant’s job profile was almost similar to that of the aircraft cabin crew but completely devoid of glamour and less paid too. I believe some bus companies have improved in this regard. Air or road should not make a difference in our behaviour, but to be honest - it does! I made a mental note to rectify my oversight in any of my future bus journey. Think about it next time you travel by bus….