Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #12: Eating on the Bus

The pitfalls of dining Al Volvo, plus ten useful tips

Greggs, Murray Place, Stirling
The Bete Noire and Godsend of all bus drivers and passengers: You cannot fault the odd Greggs Steak Bake now and then, but you wouldn’t like to share a bus with a leftover sausage roll. This is their Stirling branch, photographed by Paul Robertson in 2008. The bus in the reflection is a Northern Counties Palatine II bodied Volvo Olympian. (Creative Commons License: Attribution Some Rights Reserved-No Derivatives).

Eating and drinking on the bus is a thing that many of us do out of necessity. This is usually due to time constraints (being unable to stop off at a pub or café en route) or financial reasons (being unable to afford a pub or café) as well as hunger. Most of the time, eating on the bus might entail anything from the odd chocolate bar to a packed lunch.

Whereas eating on the train is seen as less alien due to long distance travel, enjoying your butties on the 343 is sometimes frowned upon. In Greater Manchester (and this is probably consistent with other parts of the UK), imbibing and mastication is a no-no according to notices seen on buses.

That’s eating food of any kind, hot or cold. Historically, eating on buses and coaches has been permitted so long as: 1) the food is cold; 2) that it isn’t overpowering to passengers in front or behind you; and that 3) passengers kindly leave the bus or coach tidy enough for subsequent passengers. In the Stagecoach Group’s Conditions of Carriage, it states that:

“[passengers should] refrain from eating and drinking items which make the environment unpleasant for other customers or otherwise cause offence“.

In other words: smelly food, exceptionally loud crisps, kebabs, special fried rice, bacon sandwiches, and flaky pastry products (steak bakes, sausage rolls and their bastard offspring). Alcohol is obviously a no-no; it is actually illegal to imbibe, as a passenger, alcoholic drinks on a passenger carrying road vehicle.

Though smelly food is off-putting for fellow passengers, there is a greater evil.

Litter

In almost 37 years of travelling by bus (in publicly owned and deregulated settings), there is one thing that has bothered me more than fellow passengers dining Al Volvo. Having dined Al Volvo (and possibly Al Leyland, Al Bristol, Al Dennis and Al Iveco) in my time, I am in no position to argue against eating on the bus. What bugs me more is litter.

It’s 6.30pm. You’re on the penultimate bus home from work and wish to put your feet up. As the bus happens to be – luckily for you – an Enviro400 double decker, a nice upstairs view of the journey. Then you walk upstairs and find… the top deck is like a dustbin. Mashed butties, sausage roll detritus, wayward plastic bottles, stray crisp packets, and a ripped-up detention letter. Ladies and gentlemen: its last journey may have been monopolised by litterbugs.

Though the aforementioned items can be taken care of (i.e.: moved or placed in an empty caddy reserved for the free ‘papers – often another source of littering), they pale into insignificance compared with chewing gum. Chewing gum is the Death Star of Bus Litter. It sticks onto the seat moquette, it’s a pain to get off clothes, and after a few days, it solidifies onto the bus seat. Unless you’re able to dispose of gum responsibly at the end of your journey, avoid.

Responsible bus side eating and drinking

If possible, find a good café, sandwich shop, restaurant or pub en route. Ultimately, that’s the best policy. But, if you’re unable to do that, here’s our handy cut-out-and-keep guide to dining Al Volvo.

  1. Avoid carrying hot drinks: a full cup of coffee could be dangerous if the bus brakes rapidly.
  2. Bottled water, whether Evian’s or Chew Reservoir’s finest, is a better option than cordials and flavoured fizzy drinks. If the bus brakes heavily, and your bottled water splashes the seat back or table, it is easy to clean with a tissue. Plus it doesn’t stick, unlike flavoured drinks.
  3. Take a carrier bag for the disposal of your rubbish prior to alighting and finding a suitable waste bin.
  4. Greaseproof paper or aluminium foil are the best options for wrapping your butties up in. This applies if you have a suitable bag for your rubbish (see previous point).
  5. If you purchased a sandwich from a well-known bakery or superstore chain, a cob or sub roll may be a better option than triangular sandwiches.
  6. When choosing pastry products, avoid flaky pastry if you can. Shortcrust or Melton Mowbray pastry makes less mess than flaky pastry (this is especially true with tray baked savouries and sausage rolls). If you go for a flaky pastry product, eat in the same way as you would with a chocolate bar, with the bag catching your crumbs.
  7. Consider using hand cleanser and wet wipes, especially if the pie or sandwich filling is messier than you expected.
  8. Show some discretion over food choices: make sure your sandwich or savoury pastry isn’t likely to create a mess. For sandwiches, ham and cheese is a good bet, but messy fillings like tuna mayonnaise and Subway’s Meatball Marinara are best avoided.
  9. No burgers nor pizza, nor kebabs: both could either be tempting or repugnant for fellow passengers. And messy. (N.B., the tables aboard the Vantage V1 and V2 service do not give you carte blanche to have a pizza on the Leigh Guided Busway). Parmo’s out too, ditto the above with munchy boxes and fried chicken.
  10. Always leave the bus exactly as you found it: that’s common courtesy as well as cleanliness.

Before I go…

Do you have any further tips for dining Al Volvo? Are you not particularly mithered by it, or do you think the activity is uncouth beyond belief? Feel free to opine whichever way.

S.V., 31 May 2016.

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