The elderly lady with the bleeding nose got on the bus at the same stop as I did, but she wasn’t waiting there when it arrived. She came tottering unsteadily across the carpark, one arm raised, just as we were taking off.
“I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Driver,” she told him in a voice that was clearly used to being listened to. “I was running to catch you and I had a fall.”
Her grammar was perfect and her diction crisp. Her vowels were well-rounded and she sounded every consonant and dipthong. She stood swaying in the doorway of the bus and fumbled in her handbag for her electronic bus-pass. Eventually she tagged on and wove her way to one of the priority seats near the front. She sighed, eyes wide, and looked around. She saw my concerned smile as I leaned towards her.
“Are you OK, Ma’am?”
As she nodded, a drop of blood fell onto her white blouse.
She touched her nose and saw more blood on her fingers. She frowned.
“I think it’s just a scratch,” I reassured her. “Do you have a mirror and a handkerchief?”
She ruffled in her handbag again until she found what she needed, and dabbed her nose.
“I fell,” she explained.
“Oh dear, are you allright?”
“As you said: it’s just a scratch. I have had worse.”
She stemmed the flow of blood and tucked the hanky under her cuff. She put away her mirror, folder her handbag on her lap and sat her hands on top. She sighed.
“Thank you, young man,” she said, and I thought: I like this lady, short-sighted though she is!
The bus jolted on for a few more stops. My New Best Friend leaned towards me.
“Would you please tell me when we get to Robinson Reserve?” she asked. I blanched. The closest stop to Robinson reserve was where she had boarded the bus, now way back over two steep hills.
“Oh dear!” she cried, when I told her we had passed it. She hit the button to ring the bell and the bus lurched to a sudden stop.
“I will have to walk back,” she said, and stood unsteadily. She scrambled out. I saw her through the bus window, loking forlornly up the first hill.
I had a lot to do: sort out a credit card account, pick up some documents, post others. I couldn’t spare the half-hour it would take to walk her back. And if I missed the next bus, I wouldn’t be in town before my bank was closed. I twisted around to watch her as the bus took off from the stop, and saw her slump onto the bench in flustered confusion.
I sprang up and asked the driver to stop. He sighed.
“Sorry, mate. I can’t let her walk all that way alone,” I explained.
“Good on you, mate,” he said, and opened the door.
I walked back the 100 metres to the stop. The lady looked up at me, bewildered.
“I thought you might like some company on your way back,” I told her. “It’s quite a walk.”
“That is very kind of you,” she said. “But I would not want to put you to any trouble.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all,” I lied.