28-05-23 | Greetings, my friends! A few months ago I strolled through my neighbourhood, intend on taking the earliest bus of the day. I arrived at the bus station to find the vehicle empty, save for the bus driver, who was pacing up and down listening to a podcast. Most chauffeurs listen to broadcast radio while driving, some bring their own playlists. But this man had different tastes, as I had noticed before. In fact, as I listen in, I recognize the voice. It’s dear old Stephen Fry! And as I sharpen my ears I realize it’s not a podcast the chauffeur is listening to … it’s an audiobook.
‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!’ I proclaim from the back of the bus. The pacing driver looks up. ‘Yes! Good ear!’. ‘He’s also the voice of the guide in the feature film’ I add. ‘Stephen Fry? Really? I haven’t seen it’ the bus driver admits. ‘You, should – ’ I reply, ‘ – It’s really good’. Which it jolly well was. The feature film doesn’t hold a candle to the novels by Douglas Adams, but it’s nowhere near as bad as people claim. But I digress …
The conversation didn’t extend beyond this brief exchange. Nevertheless, based on the evidence presented to me, I have come to believe that my busdriver – dare I say it – is a huge nerd.
I’ve stumbled upon this man before, as I’ve hinted at. Getting onto a bus at central station several months earlier, I noticed the theme from The Man from UNCLE was playing on the radio. It’s not uncommon for radio DJs to use cult themes as jingles, but this track was allowed to play uncut and uninterpreted. When it was followed by another Jerry Goldsmith track, I realized we had a connoisseur on our hands.
And now I cannot but conclude that this man has a nerdy disposition. But how to exploit this information? Can this shared connection be put to good use in future encounters? At presents, I can’t see how. As regular patrons of public transportation will know, interactions with your chauffeur are fleeting at best. Brief exchanges are not uncommon, but the (wo)man is doing his/her job. There’s really very little time to talk about spy shows from the sixties or sci fi novels from the eighties when you’ve got a gang of grumpy commuters to transport.
Not to mention the fact that, let’s face it, we nerdy types are not exactly renowned for our social skills. Mind you, I’m not your average introverted nerd who’s afraid of talking to cashiers and members of the opposite sex. But I’ve had some pretty strange conversations with people who were. Recently a friend of mine hooked me up with a buddy of hers, who shared my love of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds. Our little chat derailed spectacularly when I calmy stated I’m not a fan of Blu-ray. Watching a vintage TV series on DVD apparently makes me a bad person and the conversation was over pretty quickly. It’s a very alpha male occurrence: finding common ground, only to claim dominion over the shared interest – no matter how obscure.
A minor incident, I assure you. Not one that should stop me from striking up a conversation with this kind and very capable bus driver. And yet I don’t. On both occasions I can honestly say that I had no opportunity to chat to him as I departed the vehicle. And I simply haven’t run into him since. Maybe a courteous ‘how’s the audiobook?’ would do the trick, next time I see him. Just to brighten his day.
And perhaps, if God is willing, he might extend his hand and give me the secret nerd handshake. If you yourself are a nerd and not familiar with the secret nerd handshake, be sure to ask one of the vendors at the next comic book convention you attend all about it. They’d be glad to show you how it’s done. Or … just ask your local bus driver. Because apparently they’re into that sort of thing.