Four years ago, when we both started to work in a local town, we noticed that when we reached a certain point in our journey, we would see a bus heading towards us with the name of another local town on the front. The town concerned was a 20 minute drive in the other direction, and this bus always seemed to be driving round the suburbs, as if in a nightmarish Purgatorial loop, unable to find passengers or a destination.
It became a standing joke and so we would frequently wave at the empty bus and its puzzled driver, who was no doubt related to the Flying Dutchman.
In the last few weeks, a new bus system has been introduced in our region. Many more buses are now available on many more routes. This has involved hiring a lot more drivers, many of whom haven't driven in the region before, or in some cases have just got their bus licence. We know someone who has recently joined this band of merry men and have heard hair curling stories of the first few days of the new timetables being operated. Thankfully our contact is experienced and unflappable, and I suspect has dug many a lost driver out of trouble.
The papers in the last few days have been full of stories of the chaos in the capital caused by new routes, new drivers, new buses and very frustrated passengers who have not been able to get to work on time or at all. This morning a whole page in the national online news service was devoted to Tweets about the debacle.
"I saw a No 1 driving through Mornington today. That’s so lost it’s almost cute."
"Wellington taxis are absolutely loving our new bus system."
"Double deckers are my third favourite decker after Desmond and Black &."
"The good thing about the new Wellington bus system is the surprise element."
"The poor Metlink rep at Wellington station is just saying '‘I have no idea where the buses are'’, even though the Metlink GPS tracking map is showing them as being at the station."
Today on a visit to the capital, the roads appeared to be full of yellow buses with not many passengers. They still had the old numbers and destinations marked clearly on the front, but there was an air of "lost children at the zoo" about them all. We started to wonder if the notification on the front of the buses should change from "Not in Service" to "No blooming Idea" or "Lost, please someone call my wife."
If there isn't a collective noun for a fleet of hopelessly late and lost omnibus, may I respectfully suggest "A frazzle"?