A smile in the mind

Let me tell you a story. Something funny happened to me on the way to work last week. We were gathered in our office ready to depart for our annual All Staff meeting. We’re told our bus has arrived and as we filter out into the biting cold morning there’s a surprise. The bus! It’s an old AEC Routemaster with the full GRT livery. For some this might be just a quirky eccentricity but for me, it was a journey back in time.

The second I stepped on to the open platform at the back and took a seat inside it all came flooding back: the journey home from school for a tanner, the clippie with his ticket machine and the watchful eye for dodgers. This wasn’t a good idea, it was a great idea and looking around it appears to have resonated with my fellow passengers too.

We shared stories and beamed with nostalgia. Even the biting cold from the open entrance didn’t dampen spirits. On arrival, the mood was upbeat and buoyant with high expectations for the day to come.

I won’t dwell on the day’s real content but the journey home was full of laughter. The first-years ringing the bell and waving at girls in the street, the teacher coming up the stair to give the lad a telling off. It was all there. Even the coving cards were original and what’s more designed by us in a bygone age. The theme for the day had been a glimpse of our future so the expression ‘back to the future’ was all too relevant. I was struck by the attention we got from pedestrians on Union Street. Not the older folk like me who smiled in recognition of things past but the younger ones who stopped to take pictures and wave.

Here’s the thing – this was a simple experience – going on a bus. We could do that any day of the week but this was making people smile. An idea surfaced. What if, while standing at the stop waiting for one of today’s new wonder buses, this bus turned up unannounced and then charged me a shilling (five pence) for my journey. I would surely tell that story to someone else. I would recount the story that put a smile on my face. If I ran a bus company and owned a bus like this I think I could turn it into something that added real value to my brand. If it happened once a day through the summer, it could put a smile on lots of people’s faces and looking at the glum expressions at bus stops that can’t be a bad thing. I wonder who will be the ‘first’ to see the opportunity.