Welcome to our Fringe Debuts series, where comedians taking their first show to Edinburgh Fringe will give you a little taster of what to expect, an insight into their world, or really super weird musings on something equally bizarre — to be honest, we just let them run with it. If you’re readying yourself for a giant lol injection in August, now’s your chance to find something NEW to add to your list.
Eme Essien is performing Flat Shoes in the Club?, a character comedy show about the internal conflict of a woman trying to achieve modern ideals as she gets ready for a night out. Here, Eme tells us about the beauty of bus travel and shares the cheat code for optimum bus enjoyment.
“Ikea obsessed, loner, budget Queen. Headphones, colourful backpack, and I don’t know why but Emz loves taking buses!” This from my bestie who was asked to describe me. I’d have gone with passionate about homeware, introvert, savvy saver, quirky holdalls, and extensive knowledge of South London vis a vis buses. But semantics! The point is, she aint lying. Something that over the years has seen comments including but not limited to, “Emz that’s lonnnnnng”, “Man can’t be seen on bus at my big age”, and “You still aint driving?”
I grew up in South London so my love affair with buses was inevitable. From the 176 route to school, top deck disturbing everyone’s peace. The detour 63 route to Palace, avoiding going home (strict Nigerian upbringing meant no TV on school nights, chores, and extra Maths lessons!). The 484 route to college watching my friend running to catch the bus I was on. The scenic 208 route every Thursday evening to my secret part time job (strict Nigerian upbringing meant no work during school terms).
By the time I went to Uni in Essex, I was on the Megabus every weekend to London for my secret part time job, attending my secret part time drama school, then with nowhere to stay overnight, would ride night buses around London until the first train back to Colchester was running (again, strict Nigerian upbringing). That was where I really saw London. The late-night ravers, homeless people, troublemakers, early morning workers, and me. That girl with the backpack sitting inconspicuously both soaking in and drowning out the noise. It was either that or the 24-hour Liverpool Street McDonalds. That was truly hell.
When I started temping between acting jobs, I got familiar with the ‘commute route’ characters from Susan who never seemed to have enough time to dry her hair and was a veteran at bus make up, Tim in IT who like me, always had headphones on, Carla who had the arm strength of a bodybuilder gripping that holding bar and a book in another. These are not their real names for their own protection. You can read people so easily on the bus. Those that think nothing of it, those that can’t believe they missed the train and have to endure this journey with the peasants and those who look like they haven’t decided where their journey will end.
See the thing is, there was a time when all of those comments about me taking the bus got to me. They were a reminder of all the things that I hadn’t achieved in life. Buses have always been much cheaper than other transport and I hate the lack of control of being stuck on a tube. To me, it made sense. I knew buses, I grew up taking them everywhere. But to my friends, a bus was a symbol of our old working-class life and not progression. I always felt like I couldn’t catch up with my peers who had upgraded their lives and I was still… riding the bus. It is ironic now with the cost-of-living crisis that no one questions me “busing it” everywhere. I am now praised by many for my savvy spending. Success is all relative.
For my true ride or dies who embrace bus life, here’s the cheat code:
Optimal seat selection occurs if you are first on the bus. To achieve this, you need to do the slide and shuffle. Get on the edge of the pavement as the bus arrives, make eye contact with the driver and they stop right near you!
Always head upstairs and sit 4 rows from the front. Front seats on a night bus are the early morning ravers who put their feet up and will generally be dickheads. During the day it’s full of tourists or parents with kids who will subconsciously guilt you into moving.
Riding alone armour is essential… if you are introverted like me. Bus journeys are time to quieten my racing mind, unpin thoughts and people watch. To avoid human interaction, always have headphones and not a book. That invites questions!
Double seat joy is tough. Depending on time of day, you don’t have to consider sharing but when buses get busy, there is a bag and leg placement technique with headphones that, to be honest, I am not sure I can teach!
Plan ahead. Know your route. Press that bell the second you leave the penultimate stop because believe me, you have less time than you think to grab your bags, ask the dickhead sitting next to you to move, shuffle past the stairs standers (also dickheads) and hope that the driver (sometimes the biggest dickhead) does not close the doors before you make it to the finish line!
Eme Essien: Flat Shoes in the Club? runs from 3-28th Aug, 3:45pm, at the Underbelly. Tickets here
Eme is on Twitter and Instagram at @EmeEssien
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