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All things come to pass.

Byline: gary BAINBRIDGE One man's struggle with the 21st century Follow Gary on Twitter: @Gary_Bainbridge or email him at

THIS week I had to retire my bus pass, replaced by a smart card, which I consider a terrible pity, partly because, out of all the photographs of me I own which do not look like me, this one looks the least like me.

Even my Costco card photo, which makes me look like a squashed eastern European terrorist trying to read a distant train departures board, looks more like me than my bus pass picture.

Partly this is because the bus pass picture was taken nine or 10 years ago, but mostly it is because my appearance has changed quite a bit. Back then, I had an austerely short haircut and no glasses, and now I have glasses and a ridiculous quiff and occasionally a beard. I have basically regenerated from Christopher Eccleston into David Tennant. With an occasional beard.

Some months ago I caught the bus, as I occasionally do as part of my continuing attempt to "keep it real", and I flashed my pass at the driver while somebody in front of me was counting out her fare in, it appeared, one penny and two pence pieces.

This is one of the joys of having a pass. There are so few occasions in life in which queue-jumping is accepted behaviour, but this is one of them. It is like bypassing the bouncer at a trendy club and heading straight for the VIP area. I imagine this is the case. I do not go to trendy clubs, as you might have guessed from my continued use of the word "trendy".

But I must have flashed my pass a little too speedily, or, perhaps, flamboyantly for the driver's liking. "Oi," he said, as I bolted for the stairs, hoping to get the Golden Seat above him. "I haven't seen that."

I trudged back to the driver, while a teenager flashing his own pass went past and up the stairs. I knew he had designs on the Golden Seat - he looked the sort. What sort of world is it, I thought, in which a respectable man in his increasingly less early forties is called back by the driver, while a seat-stealing teenager is allowed past? I am not in favour of age discrimination, but there are limits.

The driver examined my pass closely, checking the date. "Hang on a second," he said. "That's not you."

Fairness dictates that we take a moment to examine the events from the bus driver's point of view. He was being presented an identification picture of a clean-shaven, closelycropped man in his early-mid 30s by a pound-shop Morrissey in his early-mid 40s. With glasses. And a beard.

The best that could be said is that I looked as if the man in the picture had chosen to don a very unconvincing disguise for a comedy sketch. "It really is. It's... a very old picture." He looked at the pass again and back at me. "It doesn't look anything like you."

"But..." I said. The trouble was that none of my other forms of ID looked either like me, or like the picture, or, indeed, like any sort of transition between the two.

"Look, just cover up the hair and chin," I said. I removed my glasses, scraped back my hair with one hand, and covered my mouth and chin with the other hand. "See, it's me!" I added, muffled by my palm.

He actually did it. He lifted up the pass to my eye-line height, and, it appeared, covered up my chin and hair. His eyes flicked back and forth between my forty-something face and the thirty-something one on the pass.

There was a palpable feeling of impatience starting to make itself apparent on the bus. I could feel myself angering the passengers who had already boarded, and the passengers waiting in the queue to board, just because my eyesight had deteriorated along with my determination to shave every day.

"All right," he said. He could clearly feel the mood turning on the bus too. "I'll let it go." And he handed me back my pass. At the time it felt like a victory, but since I have realised that the best I had done was introduce the tiniest sliver of doubt into his conviction there was no way I was the man in the picture.

I went up the stairs and glared at the back of the head of the teenager in the Golden Seat.


Admittedly, the photograph was taken a few years ago |
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion; Columns
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2015
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