my levels of awareness that the company who kindly and somewhat reluctantly provide me with bus services which to change the direction of my life is getting to be all the more acute this year. it was as recently as March, as frequent readers shall recall, that they thrust me into the dangerous world of needing to cross the demilitarized zone of the 89th Parallel on foot. if you want to read of that incident, or read it again, here is the link, look you see.
this week has not been just one, nightmare inducing incident as was the case in March. no, dear reader, this week has been one where i have unwittingly tested the patience on virtually every working, or if you like verking, day of it. it was only Monday, really, that saw me not flirt with the death and misfortune promised by the demilitarised zone. then and Friday.
i have been able to procure, if not create, a map for you of the current danger zone; the 45th Parallel area that saw me dance with death. maps of the area, for strategic reasons and, without wanting to be dramatic, for issues of national security, are not freely available. fortunately i was able to obtain a map from a little known, secret section of the internet with the codename 'google'.
the annotations and highlights on the map are as best as i could create from memory for you. presently i am not, contrary to popular assumption, either engaged in an UN work or contracted as a war correspondent. please do not, then, take these identifiers as being precise or accurate in their account of the situation from last week.
checkpoint charlie and checkpoint alpha are the points at which warnings are placed for the public. these warnings, innocently presented as road closed and diversion signs on the basis that some bridge repairs are being undertaken, should be heeded. the majority of the public, in particular motorists did of course, as far as i am aware, heed these warnings and did not venture beyond the signs. bus drivers are, on the whole, cut from a very different sort of cloth.
i used some deft covert skills to, in a rather open, nothing to hide way, obtain some film footage for you of one of the buses disregarding the signs and heading straight towards the forbidden 45th parallel. this footage is of us, as in i was on the bus, circling checkpoint charlie.
if it looks scary, that's probably because it was, quite a bit. i mean also it was, at the time and in retrospect, exciting, but also scary. my life, for the most part, has been an existence which has seen signs such as roads closed being both observed and adhered to. if that makes me kind of boring, so be it, but i would say it has also made it so that i am alive, and have lived long enough to hear your protestations and accusations of being boring. better this, i think, than all of you standing around some sort of memorial, commenting how my life was some exciting yet reckless ignorance of road closed signs.
what cover story did i assume for my covert filming? i decided that it would be best to - as dishonest as this is - pretend, if questioned, that i was an independent bus roof inspector, and i was merely conducting a bit of a freelance check to pass the time of day. to this end, to perfect my cover story, i took several images of the roofing of the bus. here is one of the top three images i took.
as you can see, i would like to think, the roofing of the bus is in fairly sturdy, somewhat robust condition. it is, to my mind and to my knowledge in a professional capacity, perfectly capable of meeting the requirements of a roof for practical, standard bus operations. but, as you are aware, what i experienced this week was somewhat far away from standard bus operations.
i did have some further thoughts about a cover story as to why i was covertly filming us circling checkpoint charlie in an open way and determined that passing myself off as an independent bus roofing inspector was unlikely to work in this day and age; an era of tenders, preferred suppliers and fixed term contracts. gone, truly, are the days in which a young lad - or indeed lady - could simply opt to be a bus roofing inspector and set up their own business along those lines.
to that end, then, i thought perhaps i should adopt the guise of a celebrated, international blogger who for some reason elects to review music whilst listening to it on a bus. here is a video to go along with that cover story, please play along a little bit.
what i was listening to exactly in the above doesn't matter as much as the fact that i look innocent and perfectly normal. if you wish to know, though, it was Nine Inch Nails cover of Zoo Station that i had on the go. a review of that was done on this blog at the time of release, please feel free to search for it.
i really rather suspect that anyone who has pursued reading this as far as here, and i do admire your tenacity, is somewhat more likely to be interested in what happened with the bus as it faced the challenges of road closed and diversions signs that what i intended to pretend to be if someone came up and said "what the helll do you think you are playing at" as i took pictures and video.
on a number of occasions the bus driver elected to obey the diversions signs and take the alternate route. indeed, on Friday, one of their number opted to use the alternate route despite the signs being removed and the roads being open, presumably just to be safe.
those that elected to ignore challenge the signs were of course more interesting. we shall have a rundown on how all that fared just now, but first an image of the, for want of a better description, serengeti region of the route that my bus takes.
on the first occasion of driver deciding that they knew better than the road signs, the bus was successfully steered all the way up to the road closed signs. at this stage - and i don't think we should hold this against him - he seemingly sh!t himself at the prospect and bottled it. this led to some fancy driving as he reversed the bus back from whence it came, with us only being in modest danger of backing into a river on two instances.
after that, another driver decided to circumnavigate the roundabout near the signs no less than twice before opting to take the alternate route. he did this, presumably, to allow himself time to read the whole sign across the course of two trips, so that he may have digested all the information without bringing the provincial roads to a standstill.
this was not approach of a further driver. he did very much stop the bus within the stream of flowing traffic on the roundabout to read the sign. this action, which saw more or less the whole of Yorkshire experience gridlock for 2 or so minutes, caused in the region of £1million in economic damage. this would have been fine had the driver read the sign and acted in accordance with it, but he didn't - instead he turned and asked us, the passengers, if we knew if the road was closed or not. we, in unison, suggested - in frank wording - that we believed the authenticity of the signs was to be trusted.
a video of the ride along the road of the safe zone? sure, why not.
the darkest hour of this sequence of bus rides was undoubtedly the time that we did in fact trespass right across the demilitarised and occupied zones as illustrated in the map. he drove past the warning signs and towards the barriers that stood between us and the bridge that some work was being carried out. then, he guided he bus past the road closed signs in a way that only slightly knocked them over. and then we crossed the bridge, with no fear, care or concern at all if we would snap the bridge and sink into the river below. which we didn't.
did i, you may wonder, feel at any point as if i were part of the text of a recreation of the celebrated novel Heart Of Darkness? not really. was just delighted, overall, to be able to get to verk and indeed home against the background of these challenges.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!