The Bus Papers…part one

I hope this might amuse.

Back in 2005 I was not in a happy place. When I’m depressed my closer colleagues can usually tell because I act out a bit and my humour gets reckless. Not cruel, just a bit off-the-wall. I started writing a series of spoof scientific papers based on my discomfort of sharing a double seat on public transport (we all know that feeling). The papers became rather deranged by the time the third one appeared, with my bitterness and loneliness becoming quite obvious. Before you ask – yes I genuinely did carry out the experiments described. This is the first:




D.Sleep, Lancaster, UK


We present a possible solution to the awkwardness of sharing a double seat with a stranger on public transport. The only tools required are easily obtainable comestibles.

Materials & Methods

Experiments were carried out using two varieties of bread: Warburtons White Toastie and Wholemeal Toastie (Somerfield supermarket, Lancaster UK).

During the period November 2005 to May 2006 the author undertook numerous bus journeys between Lancaster bus station and Carnforth (Stagecoach Bus services 55, 55A and 555). All journeys were undertaken at peak times in the evening, between 16:30 and 18:00hrs and buses were usually busy.

Data was only collected on evenings where the author secured a double seat at the outset of the journey and where the bus was subsequently busy enough to oblige new passengers to occupy the unclaimed seat in an already occupied pair.

Experiments consisted of a control and four ‘treatments’:

Control: Normal bus journey without bread.

Treatment 1: Bus journey with loaf of Warburtons White Toastie on knees, in silence.

Treatment 2: As above but with Warburtons Wholemeal Toastie.

Treatment 3: Journey spent stroking and talking to Warburtons White Toastie.

Treatment 4: As above but with Warburtons Wholemeal Toastie.

Experiments were carried out randomly with regard to date and current domestic requirement for bread.


Table 1:

Treatment: Control 1 2 3 4
No. Journeys 16 10 10 12 11
No. Journeys where double seat retained 4 3 3 10 10
% double seat retention 25 30 30 83 91


Results and discussion.

It is clear from table 1 that the likelihood of being able to retain a double seat for the duration of the Lancaster to Carnforth journey is significantly enhanced simply by holding a loaf of bread on one’s knee and talking to it whilst gently stroking it. The type of bread is not a significant factor.

The mere presence of bread in treatments 1 and 2 does not significantly enhance the probability of double seat retention, suggesting that only where the bread is the object of obvious affection (treatments 3 & 4) are other passengers discouraged, possibly as they feel they would be intruding on an intimate moment. It would be interesting to test the influence of the person carrying out the experiment by repeating the work using a person who doesn’t look a bit odd in any case, it is hypothesized that this would make little difference to treatments 3 & 4 but might negatively affect seat retention in treatments 1 & 2 and the Control.

On one occasion the author was joined by a fellow passenger who asked if they too could stroke the loaf. Clearly there is a closet community of bread fetishists in North Lancashire and persons using this technique for seat retention should be aware of this.

Preliminary experiments using a 4 pint bottle of milk instead of bread suggest that this is just as effective, as well as making the author’s knees cold.

It would be interesting to conduct this research on trains rather than buses in order to test the following hypothesis:


  • That retention of a double seat will be more difficult despite using the suggested technique because:


  1. Trains are usually overcrowded and seats are precious


  1. Train journeys are often longer and passengers less willing to stand


  1. British trains have a high percentage of eccentrics amongst their passengers and therefore rail users are relatively desensitised to odd behaviour


  1. Trains on the Carnforth-Lancaster line usually travel to or from Barrow-in-Furness and many passengers are therefore likely to be too drunk, stoned, or badly beaten to notice who they sit next to.



Sitting on the bus talking to, and stroking, a loaf of bread virtually guarantees that one will keep the double seat for exclusive personal use, no matter how busy the bus. This could be an especially valuable tool for those with social anxiety or personal space issues.


I would like to thank Stagecoach buses for providing transport. My wife Susan for financial support and assistance in consumption of experimental materials. Somerfield supermarkets for providing reliably sullen service. Colleagues at work for helping make the author crazy enough to carry out this research.



  1. This was so amusing 🙂 an interesting and light hearted read. I remember one halloween this guy was wwearing to slices of bread strapped to his chest and back and when I asked him what he was going as he said “an inbred” I still think it is the best halloween constume ever!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is brilliant Amy! 🙂
      My best bus story was getting an early morning bus to the university where I work and this rather hung-over male student got on – stark naked. Now that early bus is always packed with university cleaning staff – all cackling middle aged ladies. The poor lad was beetroot coloured by the time he got to the Uni!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I am glad I don’t have the kind of friends who would get me so drunk, strip me naked and leave me in the city centre overnight with nothing but a handful of change for the bus! Or at least I don’t think they would…. I suspect my friend Jane might try it….

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Kylee! My twisted sense of humour actually thrives on depression (I think some professional comedians would say the same). There is a big time gap between the second and third bus papers and the third one actually begins by apologising for the gap which was due to an ‘uncharacteristic period of peace of mind’….


    1. Thank you Inese 🙂

      This (and the follow-ups which will appear here eventually) were circulated widely amongst my colleagues. Those who didn’t know me too well approached me to say things like ‘I had no idea you were so funny as you are always so quiet’. The people closer to me, however, realised that they were a desperate cry for help, however well disguised.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I do love a good research project. A corollary from my days in Chicago, where one might be alone with a few dodgy types on a train platform. Muttering to one’s self or loaf of bread might work, or might increase your vulnerability. However, beginning to retch is a sure fire way to get quite a bit more space. Works on the platform, not sure how it translates on the train itself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, that is a good idea! I’m writing a post about British reserve which is inspired by the b
      fact that for the last ten years I have shared my morning bus stop with two other people and we have never spoken to each other. Now I wonder if I am the dodgy type in this scenario…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL!!!! I literally laughed out loud while reading this! What a unique and creative piece of writing! I think I especially enjoyed reading this since I am a pharmacist and I read randomized controlled trials for a living. This may be the most awesome RCT I’ve read 🙂
    The part where the person beside you started asking if they could stroke the loaf of bread as well really made me crack up 🙂 Looking forward to reading more bus papers!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had a rather shaky grasp on reality at the time so it didn’t seem that odd. Worrying really.
      I don’t recall exactly what I said. Probably talked about my work day most of the time – at least with bread you can’t tell if you have bored it to death.
      As for what it said to me, that would be telling…😉

      Liked by 1 person

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