You make your way through the winding backwaters of your overpriced, under-maintained tower block cookie-cutter hell, amazed by its durability, yet repulsed at its antiquation. “The greatest city in the world” seems to be a strikingly thin façade for sheer torture at the hands of eternal boredom and copy paste deciduous trees around places for a small splash of “colour”- brown in the winter, allergy-inducing green in the summer.
You step on the bus, and frantically search for your Oyster card. You find it in the eternal abyss of your cheap, chafing chinos. The new design is dazzling, but rough to the touch. Eh, apparently it’s biodegradable. But will we even be around long enough to see it degrade? The joy of policy. You chuckle audibly enough for people to hear, before you remember the mask on your face: a thin barrier that helps you feel secure, yet hides your barely noticeable facial expressions. You make your way to the back, away from the general niceties of British culture- small talk, phatic “you alrights”, and diets that start on Monday. But which Monday? We’ll never know. You remember what your mum used to say about small talk (and other things she enjoyed) “Only boring people don’t like small talk!” Some part of you feels compelled to agree- why not abandon the all-too-common trap of misanthropy? As a defender of all things indie and avant-garde, enjoying other people could be construed as cultural praxis.
You sit down next to a 3 day old Metro, and pick it up as if it were a cheap bottle of wine to down while watching Newsnight. The usual Meghan Markle drivel pushes you away, however. You then try to read The Guardian, yet the letters require you to squint, and the content is perhaps too bleak and depressing for you, a quintessentially bleak and depressing person. “A damning indictment of the Government” you see in the comments. Who cares? Or more so, who has the energy to care? Political theatre seems to have lost its best-in-show sheen, replaced with a unkempt, flea ridden, tangle of hyper-materialism and faux meritocracy. Too tired to consume anything meaningful, You put on some mood-killing indier-than-thou music to pretend smoke a cigarette to and romanticise your overwhelming ennui.
The faint, sickly sweet smell of diesel hangs over the air in the bus. The thought of opening a window crosses your mind, but some part of you seems to like it. Besides, air pollution from idling SUVs wouldn’t be much better. This “Ultra Low Emission Zone” doesn’t seem to be doing much, you ponder, until you realise that it was introduced 3 weeks ago. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes.
Your neo-vegetativeness is interrupted by a familiar scuff of shoes- unbroken-in Doc Martens. Who is the sociopathic hipster, aiming to be ridiculed by many? Who is the twee imbecile trudging their way up the stairs? You await the reveal with bated breath, until you see a tweed cap. The masochistic scene queen is a pale male pensioner, longing for the pain of wage slaving 50 hours a week in tough leather boots, like “real men” do. Another anecdote for the eternally postponed meetup with your non-work friends.
You see the familiar all glass, high end office buildings (deserted because of the pandemic, of course) and know your destination is nearing. This daily pilgrimage, towards the hyper-capitalistic £9.50 p/h routine is nearly over: yet somehow, you feel sad about it. British culture is no better exemplified than on a bus, and its delicate intricacies a moreish consumption. The only thing you lament is the destination, working to survive, and surviving to work. However, contemplation of the contemporary hardly seems appropriate for a Routemaster.
You weave your way through the labyrinth of the inner-city streets, and eventually reach your (metaphorical) minotaur- dissociation for 8 hours at the hands of retail work! What fun! How lucky are you to live in the greatest city in the world?