Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
19 March 2015

Suzanne Moore: I’d been told that it was better to ask one person for help than to scream at random

Altercations often happen on my bus. I stare into a phone just like everyone else.

By Suzanne Moore

You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of car they drive. I haven’t got a car. I like buses because all human life is there. But that means really all forms of it, which sometimes one would prefer to avoid.

Altercations often happen on my bus. I stare into a phone just like everyone else. Eye contact can be fatal. We all try to pretend that the rows that are happening in front of us are on some distant screen. Except for those who like the show.

“Look at that, love,” said a woman next to me the other day. “They’re having an argument. That pushchair is bollocking that wheelchair. Disgusting.”

I took an “urgent” call.

“See, I don’t think it’s fair on the wheelchair.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

I didn’t know whether to nod sympathetically or to point out that people in wheelchairs are not actually called wheelchairs.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up

Sometimes, though, you know not to talk to the person sitting next to you. Nor even to look at them. You can’t hear their inner voices but you can get a sniff of them. It’s a familiar smell.

I sat next to one such man a while back and immediately knew. I kept looking straight down, but then I made the big mistake: I glanced out of the window, which was vaguely in his direction.

“That’s it,” he murmured. “I am going to have to drop you.”

Oh God.

“I don’t want to. I know what they will do to me, but you saw me.”

His voice was getting louder.

“You saw inside me. I am going to have to do it.”

He was rocking now and was very agitated. I kept my eyes away from his and hoped that someone else would help me.

“You can’t kill me,” I blurted out. “It will make me late.”

I had no idea what I was saying but this was running through my mind. Being murdered would mean I’d miss my appointment.

“Late. You’re late?”

“I’m late already. Please don’t make it worse.”

“But you seen me now. You seen me. I have to!”

He was shouting at me now. The bus was full. Everyone carried on swiping at their phone.

“Help me,” I said directly to a man standing by me. In a self-defence class, I’d been taught that it’s better to ask one person for help than to scream randomly.

“What’s up, love?”

“I’m gonna have to drop her. They’re telling me to,” explained the guy next to me.

“Boyfriend problems, yeah?”

“He’s threatening to kill me.”

“Sorry, love. This is my stop.”

A gang of boys got on. They were loud and threatening but so was the man next to me.

Something connected. My would-be killer and the boys clocked each other. They all saw inside each other. They all rushed off the bus at the same time. There would be terrible, terrible violence, I knew that.

But I would not be late.