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Home truths.

Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

The passengers on the number 36 bus, let me tell you, are among the finest people in the world.

I say this for two reasons, the first being that, obviously, I would like to be more popular between the hours of 8am and 8.30am from Monday to Friday. But the main reason for my bold statement is to reply to a conversation I overheard in a pub this week.

This exchange involved two men ( as these conversations normally do ( who were talking about their cars and, in essence, how great they are.

After boasting about how quickly they can drive (like sad men often do), moaning about traffic jams and laughing about breaking the speed limit, one of them came out with the classic line: "Let's face it, only losers take the bus over the age of 30."

Well, if that's the case, boys, sign me up for the losers because I use a bus every morning and, believe it or not, I quite like it. What some people just don't get about public transport is that it is public.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to this. You might have to sit next to someone who smells, someone who talks incessantly into their mobile phone or, in the case of the number 36 some mornings, a bloke who barks every time you pass a dog in the street.

But there is also the pleasure of mingling with your fellow man, however insignificantly, for a few minutes each day, and in the modern world, that interaction with other people is becoming ever more rare and valuable.

Rather than share the bus with other people we might not like, we drive everywhere in cars that we make into our own little cocoons. Rather than risk mingling with other humans in the shops, we get our groceries online. More and more people are working at home so that they can even avoid their work colleagues.

Surely this is a slippery slope. If we spend our lives avoiding our fellow man at every turn, we risk losing all that is good about life. Personally, I find spending more than five or six minutes in my own company a bit of a chore and I've always believed what someone a lot wiser than me once said: people become people through other people.

A couple of my best friends and I have a constant disagreement. They believe that people are basically awful with a few exceptions. I believe that people, give or take a few bad apples, are mostly good but just find life a bit hard sometimes.

As debates go, it's not one that we're ever likely to resolve, but not even my two slightly misanthropic friends have decided to stop mixing with the rest of humanity.

That's why I'm inviting you all to get on the number 36 bus with me tomorrow and see some of the finest people in the world. It's less than pounds 1 to get from my house to town, which is a small price to pay to get your humanity back.

The people on the number 12, however, are a whole different matter. I'd avoid them if I were you.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 10, 2005
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