Cracker by Damian Christie

One Day Out Bussing

I really ought to catch the bus more.

Not for any of the reasons currently touted. Not because "Aucklanders need to get out of their cars." Not because it helps me avoid congestion. Not because the public transport system in Auckland is going forwards in leaps and bounds and I should be there leading the charge.

No, the reason I should catch the bus more is for a much more selfish reason (isn't this why Aucklanders do anything?)

It's a great source of material.

I have so many 'on the bus' stories. Granted most of them are along the lines of "and then after waiting half an hour for the f***en Link bus, three of them turned up at once – and they still stopped for another half an hour at Victoria Park while they changed drivers."

I've had the doors locked on me because the bus driver for some reason wants to keep the two factions of brawling homies inside (with the rest of us) until the police arrive. I've had the bus turn up late in Parnell five minutes before my radio show started on the other side of town, gotten on slightly stressed, grabbed the the last seat available, the other occupant of which then turns to me and says wide-eyed, in his best Dustin Hoffman-circa-Rain Man: "I like Fridays, Fridays are my favourite days what are your favourite days?"

I love public transport.

It was a more demure exchange that caught my attention yesterday. I was on the way back home after finishing up at b, a point I raise only to allow myself to express how utterly impressed I was with the absolutely delightful Hayley Westenra, who came in for a chat about her new appointment as UNICEF national ambassador, and the release of her fourth CD, Pure. The lovely wee thing didn't even blink with recognition as I asked whether she was concerned at all about the drug reference (I had to ask, sorry). If it's possible to use the phrase 'little ray of sunshine' in a non-sarcastic way, then consider it so used.

Right, where was I? Oh yeah, the bus. So I overhear these two elderly women, complaining about the rise in ARC rates. Ignore the irony that they're on a bus, it's a Red Herring. Ignore if you will the fact that I'm eavesdropping, because as we all know, conversations on the bus are public domain. Ignore the fact I'm paraphrasing and have added comical 'old-person names' which is a subtle literary device designed to undermine these two…

Mavis: "These rises in the ARC rates are disgusting"

Matilda: "Yes, aren't they."

Mavis: "I mean, I live in Birkenhead, we don't have trains, why should we pay for that."

Matilda: "And I never go to MOTAT, why should I pay for that."

Mavis: "I can't remember the last time I went to the museum…"

Matilda: "Word up."

Anyway, you get the idea. 'Why should we pay for what we don't use'. It's not the first time we've heard this philosophy. It even has a name. It's called User Pays.

Now I'm no fan of the ARC, nor their undoubtedly completely unjustified rates increases. But it strikes me as ironic that most of the people (and trust me, talkback has been full of them) I've heard decrying the rates hike are doing so on the basis they don't offer enough value for money, they're not using what they're paying for.

These are exactly the same people who call up and lament the lack of an effective public health system, claiming two standards of citizenship for those who can afford to go private, and those who can't. These are the same people that shudder at the idea of toll roads everywhere in the city -- the ultimate in User Pays. What am I asking for? A little philosophical consistency, one way or another?

Perhaps too much to hope for on the 243 to Sando.

A few points:

Does anyone else find that ARC Chair Gwen Bull has a Jedi mindtrick-like ability to make all who come into contact with her think "I have absolutely no faith in this woman whatsoever"?

Why does everyone justify their plan for the Peter Blake memorial (yes, it's still going on) by saying "I think that's what Peter would want." If it were me I'd want strippers and an attempt at making a record-breaking giant pavlova. Who's to say he's any different? Assumption, as they say, is the mother of all f***ups.

Go and see Pixar's latest flick Finding Nemo when you get an opportunity (it opens in September I think, I'll remind you closer to the time, don't worry). Beg or borrow (but please don't steal) a kid from somewhere if you need an excuse.