In the old days of travel, you never really knew when the bus was going to come along. Yes, there was a published timetable, but it only ever bore a passing acquaintance with reality. They came when they came, that was it.

Nowadays, as I observed in the UK recently, you have electronic signs telling you – presumably via GPS – when the next bus is due to arrive. I think this is supposed to manage your expectations better, but it still has only a passing resemblance to the agreed passage of time. This has the opposite effect of what is intended. Sometimes a bus will be 25 minutes away for half an hour, by which time you know it has been cancelled because the next one has turned up.

At other times the bus might be 8 minutes away, but the subsequent minutes are long ones, it being 2 minutes away for 2 minutes, then 1 minute away for 2 minutes, then ‘due’ for 2 minutes. Somewhere there’s an awful lot of rounding going on.

It’s progress, Jim, but not as we know it.

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