It was Henry’s first day on the job and he was already feeling somewhat doubtful about his future with this new company. He had been given a pretty hard time at the interview and some of the questions he had to answer had made him a bit uncomfortable. For example, “what was his attitude to females?” and “Did he believe in freedom of choice?” He had been a bus driver for years and had an impeccable record and many very positive letters of recommendation but never before had he been questioned about his feelings towards women! Oh, well, as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a holiday”, and he hadn’t had one of those in years!
His instruction for today was to pick up passengers at three designated points and to take them through to the airport. He had been told that these were desperate women who all had reasons to escape. It was this that was making Henry feel very uncomfortable indeed. Was he party to underhand goings on and was he likely to be cited as an accomplice? Oh, whatever, let’s just get the show on the road, so to speak, he thought and started up the bus’s powerful engine.
At his first stop he found a motley group of women of various ages and cultural groups. None of them seemed to be particularly happy and most seemed to appear tired and irritable. Another thing that Henry noticed was the small amount of luggage each woman was carrying – nothing much larger than an average sized duffel bag as well as a smallish, over the shoulder handbag. I suppose when one has become so desperate that the only way out is to pack up and run away from everything, that you take the absolute bare minimum of belongings with you, he mused. He wondered how much Mary, his wife of 25 years, would cram into a small bag if she decided to leave him in a hurry. Knowing her she would need a container to pack all the things she had collected over their years of marriage and which she seemed to value more than she valued him.
By the time the passengers at the second and third bus stops had been picked up and were settled in their seats, it was an hour’s drive to the airport. Some of the women shut their eyes and promptly fell asleep, others just gazed out of the window and made no effort to converse with their neighbours. It was a very small handful of the older women who seemed inclined to pass the occasional comment to their fellow passengers. It was the weirdest atmosphere that Henry had ever experienced, and it made him very nervous. A strange thing was that no-one was using a mobile phone or an i-pad. That was very odd indeed but maybe also to prevent them being traced? Obviously these women were leaving the country and heading for greener pastures, without their families and friends knowing anything at all about their plans. Should he head off to the nearest police station and hand them all over, or follow his instructions and take them, as directed, to the airport? He needed the pay, so he put his doubts aside and just carried on concentrating on his driving.
It was with a sense of relief that Henry finally saw the signs in front of him directing him to the offloading section of the airport. It was then that one of the women stood up and, for the first time during the entire trip, addressed him. “Excuse me, Sir, but you have to drop us off at the domestic departures, not the international”. Oh, so they weren’t going to another country, just running away to another town or city. Might be even easier to get lost in some or other small village than being traced through Interpol!
As he stopped the bus and helped the women down the steps, he saw in front of him two people holding up a large placard which read “The Great Escape – a big welcome to all our ladies”. So this was an organized running away! As the passengers dismounted, they all headed over to the people holding the board and once they were all ready, they walked in crocodile file into the departure hall. Only a few of them had even bothered to thank Henry for his services – ungrateful bunch, he muttered under his breath.
As he was climbing back into his vehicle he saw a piece of paper had fallen on the floor of the bus. He bent down and picked it up and started reading the information on it.
“Are you overworked and over stressed? Do your husband and your children take you for granted? Is your boss overly demanding? Do you feel that you need to run away? Well, call now as there is an escape route at an affordable price. Join other women who feel just the way you do and have a weekend of total relaxation and pampering at The Great Escape hotel and Spa, overlooking the sea, and at affordable rates. From the moment you board the luxury bus en route to the airport, please ensure that your mobile phones have been switched off, and try to keep all conversations as limited as possible. This is to enable you to begin your weekend of rest and rejuvenation in the best possible way. We will give you time to recharge your batteries in order to face your day to day challenges. Hope to see you at our very next “women’s only” retreat. Regards, Management, The Great Escape.”
Henry felt a bit deflated after reading this. His life was so mundane that it was actually quite exhilarating to think that one may have been party to a bunch of dissatisfied women running away from their previous lives to find love and happiness, and possible wealth by starting over again! Now it was another day in the life of a bus driver – a first day, so maybe other days might bring a bit more excitement. You just never know what is lurking around the corner- even if you are a bus driver! Nothing wrong with hoping, anyway!