Upon entering I asked the driver (as I produced some strange metal objects from my pocket) how much to get to my stop?
He looked at me as if I'd just landed from Mars. "Are you paying cash?" he said astonished. I affirmed it. "That's £2.40" he replied, in what was clearly a state of shock. So I gave him £2.50. "Haven't you got the right money?" he grumbled.
"I only want 10p change" I said (I mean it wasn't as if I was giving him a fiver, which he would probably have rejected anyway). So he fumbled around in a little box and produced my 10 pence coin. I asked him if he'd ever heard of the concept of loose change. "Nobody pays by cash any more" he muttered. "Well, I don't get out much" I replied.
So how do you get an Oyster Card? Well you can get them at Newsagents or online, which cost £5 deposit plus a minimum of £5 pre-load. Not very good if you are an infrequent user and only need it for one small journey of £1.40 (there's an additional £1 for paying cash). And that's why I resent it - but pretty soon we'll all have to conform to the system if we want to use public transport. Think of all that unused money in the coffers of TfL gathering interest.
Next week there is industrial action on London Underground in protest at TfL's planned closure of over 300 station ticket offices. Again, the Oyster Card raises it's ugly head, and the excuse that there is no need for manned ticket offices because everyone uses the ubiquitous plastic.
I've never been a fan of Bob Crow, the General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, and he's always struck me as a dinosaur from the dark days of the union barons of the 70's and 80's. But I support him in his call for action on this occasion. But this is not about money, it's about jobs, and closing all those ticket offices will undoubtedly mean job losses. This strike will cause inconvenience to the commuter, but they should support it in my opinion.
Trade Unions are the last line of defence to protect the worker and ensure his job security with a decent living wage. They are an important part of our history, and whilst they may have lost much of their power in the Thatcher years (some would say rightly so), without them the British worker will be sent back to the working conditions of the 19th and early 20th century. Employers think they can do whatever they want, and with the influx of cheaper labour from formerly eastern block European countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria etc (who will not join a union) they think they have an unlimited supply of workers and can supply them with very insecure contracts.
The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 which effectively changed the European Economic Community to the European Union with all the incumbent central control from Brussels, creating the free movement of goods and people, and which eventually led to Monetary Union and the Euro, is a far cry from those heady innocent days of just being part of a mutually friendly and protective trading zone.
This slow, insidious change was clearly part of a conniving grand plan, and we fell for it hook, line and sinker. That was the hidden plan and the small print unseen in the contract. The price of membership is a high one and it's repercussions will reverberate for generations to come.
To imply that cashless buses and closures of ticket offices are directly related to EU membership may seem like an extremely tenuous link. After all, surely you would say that it's got nothing to do with Europe, but merely a natural progression due to the advances of technology? Surely the cynic would suggest that the writer is so anti-EU that even a simple gripe about getting on a bus is just an excuse for him to complain?
It's a valid criticism. Yet the point is simple. The systematic changes, however seemingly innocuous, inevitably become cancerous. They are discreetly invasive, presented as advancement, projected as convenient, and designed to make us believe that it is all for our benefit.
When we accept such procedures, without question, without analysis, without investigation, when we march blindly into the brave new world, perhaps it's time to revisit the book of that name, to read Huxley and fear the future - because we are not becoming more free, but more controlled, bit by bit, day by day, until one day we will wake up and discover that the freedoms we thought we had were nothing but an illusion, and we are all part of a well designed and controlled plan to limit the very freedoms which previous generations fought and often died for.
Think about that next time you board a bus. The oyster is your world.