The Bus (that is actually a metaphor, of course)

The best seats on a double decker bus are, I am sure you’ll agree, on the upper level, right at the front. Those seats have the best views, unobscured by any driver’s seat or other passengers’ heads, above virtually every other vehicle on the road. If one boards the bus and finds them unoccupied, I am sure they would not remain that way for long.

Sometimes, even if you have been sat in the best seats for a while, you might find yourself bullied out of those seats by someone bigger or stronger than you. You’d be pushed further down down the bus, and these new people would sit in the best seats. Now, imagine that the staircase is accessed from the front of the bus, meaning that the bullies not only have the best seats, but also control who can use the stairs. Suddenly, you’re not a passenger on the bus anymore, you’re a prisoner.

Quickly, the people sitting in the best seats become obsessed with keeping them. They start forgetting that the purpose of a bus is to move people from one place to another. They start enjoying the power that they have over the bus, and they love the fact that they have the best seats on the bus. Being by the stairs gives them control over what food and water comes up the stairs, meaning that they can get more than their fair share of rations. Over time, the other passengers start to get fed up. The people in the best seats toss their rubbish down the bus, meaning that the rest of the bus is getting filled up with waste. The people in the best seats don’t care, though, because they can just look out the windscreen at the unspoiled view, pleased at how well their position on the bus is suiting them. In fact, they don’t even seem to notice how they are affecting their fellow passengers.

Over time, the bus becomes old and rickety. People talk about getting off, but the people in the best seats, the ones who control who can and can’t leave the bus, don’t like that idea. They’ve been riding the bus for so long now that it would be ridiculous to get off. “The bus protects us!” They shout. “And if we let you off, the engine won’t start again.”

The windows at the front start leaking, so the people in the best seats tell the people at the back of the bus that they have to take their windows to replace the ones at the front. The back of the bus refuses, but they are much weaker than the front of the bus because the people in the best seats get to control who gets what rations. By the time that the rations reach the people in the back of the bus, there is very little left at all. The people in the best seats march down the bus and punch and kick their fellow passengers, and take their windows.

“Hey! You can’t do that!” Shout the people at the back of the bus.

“Shut up, or we’ll punch you again.” Reply the people in the best seats.

More time passes. It rains frequently, and the back of the bus starts to get damp and cold and mouldy.

“Please, let us off the bus!” Beg the people at the back of the bus.

“NO!” Yell the people at the front of the bus. “If the bus stops to let you off, it won’t start again. It’s raining outside. Do you want us to all get wet?”

“But we’re already wet!”

“Well then, you should have taken better care of your windows.” The front of the bus says.

“But YOU took our windows. Could we not move to the front of the bus with you?” The people at the back of the bus ask.

The people in the best seats look uncomfortable.

“No, there’s no space here.” One says.

“We do things differently at the front of the bus, so you wouldn’t fit in.” Chimes in another.

“The back of the bus is very dirty. We don’t want you people to bring that here.” Adds a third.

“You should stay down your end and make it better.” They all decide.

“Well, could we at least have more food?” Asks the back of the bus.

“It’s not OUR responsibility to fix your problems.” Sneers one person.

“You should have thought about that before you sat at the back of the bus!” Smirks another.

“You should get your own staircase and not rely on us!” Decrees a third.

“You should be grateful we give you anything at all.” The people in the best seats say haughtily, and turn around.

Soon, the bus is in a very bad way indeed. The people at the front of the bus start to realise that they can’t keep taking from the people behind them on the bus, because the roof is about to collapse. Instead, they start taking things from downstairs on the bus.

“Are you sure this is okay?” One of the people in the best seats asks the person next to them.

“Oh yes,” The person replies. They are lying.

As the downstairs on the bus is getting more and more unsafe, some people at the front of the bus start getting worried too, but the people closest to the stairs, in the very best seats, are adamant that they continue their mission to keep the bus moving. Very quickly, the only thing left to be taken are the brakes of the bus.

“This is madness!” The back of the bus shouts. “Once we take the brakes, there is nothing left to fix this bus with! We’ll never be able to slow the bus down!”

“Nonsense!” Scorn the people nearest the stairs in the best seats. “We are very clever on this bus. We’ll find a way to keep fixing the bus once we use the brakes.”

“Life is very hard when there are no windows and not enough rations.” The back of the bus argues. “We’ve stripped this bus almost bare and there is nothing to protect us from being shaken apart if we go over a rough patch.”

“But if we stop the bus, we’ll never get it started again.” The people in the very best seats say, knowing that this line always works. However, this time, there are no mumbles of agreement.

“Yeah? Maybe that’s a good thing.” Reply the people on the bus, even some of the people at the front.

“But we’ll lose our seats!” Shout the people closest to the stairs. “You can’t stop this bus.”

“Then we’re all going to die!” Shout the rest of the people on the bus.

“The front of the bus will end up just like the back of the bus!” The people at the front of the bus scream at the people closest to the stairs, terrified of the reality they see behind them.

“Why wasn’t that enough for you to do something earlier?” Demand the people at the back of the bus. “Why is it okay for us to suffer but not for you to endure the risk of potentially suffering like us?”

“We’re sorry.” The front of the bus say, “We were so distracted by the beautiful views out of the window. We were happy on the bus. We didn’t think there was anything we could do to help you because if we had done something, then we might have lost the best seats. But now we are going to lose them anyway. Now it’s an emergency, and we don’t know what to do.”

“We have to get off this bus.” Everyone onboard agrees, aside from the people that are sat beside the staircase. There are a lot more people who want to get off than who want to stay on. The people on the bus realise that the people in the very best seats only have control because they have first access to the rations that come up the stairs. However, the stairs don’t matter when there’s no-one on the bus, and even the very best seats on the bus aren’t worth everyone’s lives.

The people on the bus push past the people in the very best seats and rush down the stairs. They stop the bus, and slowly, very slowly, step off. Everything feels strange because it is still. There is no motion on the ground they stand on like there had been on the floors of the bus, no hum of an engine, no windows or walls, and no-one controlling who could have access to what.

Maybe life off of the bus wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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