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What a way to run a coach trip: Part Two

May 16, 2012

So, you’ve booked and distributed the tickets, and finally it’s here…

Come the day and the answer to those ringing sick at the last minute (despite having flu for at least a week) is “sorry, no refund.” Nothing you can do – but give credit for not turning up and infecting the rest of us.

Arrive 30 minutes early at the meeting point, just to stand nervously hoping the coach company remember to send the bus. Heave sigh of relief when it turns up, and use heavy clipboard to prevent party boarding until you’ve exchanged mobile numbers with the driver and confirmed post-show meeting point and whether items can be left on the coach “at owner’s risk.”

Allow group to board, ticking them off on your prepared list as you go. They’ll ignore you asking, then whine when they get left behind. You’ll feel bad, and hope your list will stand up in court as an accurate manifest. Note who instantly reverts to “school days” and heads for the back seats, and sigh as those who are ‘coach sick’ are last on and find the front seats gone. Bribe driver to let them use ‘crew only’ front seats with the words, “unless you have paper bags on board.” Works most of the time, just keep sharp lookout for traffic cops.

Give a ‘welcome’ announcement and praise those who arrived on time – it’s rare and noteworthy.

Head out and keep fingers crossed for traffic all the way. Arrive early, and they’ll wonder why you demanded such an early start time. Get close to curtain and still be stuck on Kingsway, they’ll hate you for leaving at 4pm when 3.30pm would have been better. Expect no help from the driver, who’s stressed enough as it is about whether he’ll still get a tip or not. Nervously eye watch and juggle lists ready for way back, trying not to lose wad of “confirmations” from coach and venue that you have brought ‘just in case’ in the process. Envy group who are chatting cheerfully and demolishing sandwiches while reclining and taking in the view.

Decant group into London street. Point them to theatre entrance and watch half try to enter the venue next door. Melt into crowd and use own knowledge to have a quiet visit to an out-of-the-way gents’ for a moment of peace.

Enter auditorium and hope there are no double-bookings. Find own seat (well away from the rest) and try not to look round nervously. At the announcement, turn off phone without checking for urgent texts from party. Nothing you can do now anyway.

At interval, check texts, and if none, relax for a moment and receive praise – noting nobody actually buys you a drink (given the prices, not unreasonable) but does try stealing your programme under guise of “should be included in the price.” Nice try.

Curtain down, again use superior knowledge to exit venue ahead of main crowd via conveniently located fire-door. Find on street that coach isn’t anywhere near, and race round building. Spot coach and help driver repel invaders (see earlier). Check no early-exiting bods have colonised seats, and repeat earlier “checking off list while being ignored” process. This time in the dark without a torch. Grateful you used pencil as it doesn’t blur in the rain.

Spot traffic warden and discover religion while carrying out rapid head count. Count number of empty seats too and do sum that confirms all are on board. Except two who checked their coat at the cloakroom and are still waiting for it. Driver moves bus three inches to prove to warden “still loading.” Warden unimpressed but distracted by rickshaw driver running over foot. Knew they were useful for something.

Stragglers arrive, pull away. Find out from mood on bus whether the trip was hit or not. Once you’ve found that envelope, you can relax and watch the world (the high up view gives perfect view through windows and down tops if so inclined). Except everyone wants to chat to you, and you find your adrenaline is high anyway and so you chat back… and hope the tiredness doesn’t kick in until safely home.

Home arrival. You’re last off the bus, noting the litter and hoping the driver will blame the school kids he had on earlier. Retrieve lost property, hoping it is something the owner actually wants back and hasn’t left to be disposed of, and head to front of bus. Grab sign that’s been in window all evening and get off.

Find driver on pavement where he’s been helping the last few off the high step. Thank him and press pre-prepared envelope containing tip into hand. Note expression of “thank gawd and hope there’s a fifty in there” mixed with “must smile and be nice, even though I was thinking earlier I’d miss out as nobody was going up the aisle taking a collection.” Accept final thanks from last few walking to their cars, and heave sigh of relief as you get into your own.

Finally fall asleep 3 hours later to the sound of “We MUST do this again soon” ringing in your ears. Think to yourself “never again,” until the memory has faded and you find yourself thinking six months hence, “you know, I think they’d like that…”

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