All A-Bored: The Omnibus
Sunday, 9 October 2005
A busload of metaphors…
Modern use of the word “bus” (in the context of a form of public vehicle) began in Paris, circa 1828. The people then and there were not likely as bored as this person here and now is. So in honour of boredom – the tedium of long distance public transport – I bring to you the bus, the carry all vehicle of modern metaphor.
Originally called an “omnibus” (Latin for “all”) the word was colloquially collapsed into bus, perhaps, in part, due to its popularity in basic function: a device to convey similar objects. Even when going nowhere, such as the box seats of the opera or a variety-packed parliamentary act, the omnibus transports a group of similar things from somewhere to somewhere else. The very concept is ubiquitous in nature, from atoms carrying particle-passengers, through to airliners carrying particular passengers.
At the pool hall the other night, a busboy came by the table with an empty beer case to pick up empty bottles. Four rows of empty seats in the box gradually filled as it boarded spent travellers. The once full bottles had gone to work after the first rush hour that began their day (AKA “Happy Hour”), and will return home on the next rush hour, after a draining day at work. Beer is the lifeblood of a bar’s economy – its free flow, if interrupted, can kill the bar.
A busboy at a restaurant picks up dishes instead of bottles, perhaps placing them on a trolley, with partitions for each type of traveller. The busfare is some portion of the tip in many places, as if public transport should be paid for by taxation. A tip – To Improve Promptness – demonstrates the universal truth that tax is for the fast: if you earn it fast, you get taxed more; if you spend it fast, you get taxed more.
A city bus may have similar partitions as a busboy’s trolley, such as a bike rack on the front or a luggage hold underneath. Doubledeckers are as common in restaurants as they are on some city streets, providing the rows, columns and layers that make for the three classic dimensions. A day is a succession of buses on a schedule, stacking them through time.
A bus terminal is a meeting point for bus routes. A beginning and an end. An electrical circuit is a route for electrons. An electrical grid may have a terminal strip – a meeting point for circuits. In this context the busbar carries many circuits of the same voltage, creating a circuit-as-passenger equation.
Later that night, as I became the spent passenger of my own life, I sat to close my computing day. Rows of wires filled with electrons on the data bus within my homemade, open-sided desktop. More accurately, an entire public transport system for data was filled for this, the rush hour of a computer’s day. Traffic heats up. So does the computer.
Data buses and busboys enjoy their contemporary metaphor status thanks to a vehicle invented nearly two centuries ago. Since that time, the bus took to the skies as an airbus, and to the water as the riverbus. It has disguised itself as a case of beer or carton of eggs, or revealed its true identity in a busbar. The bus metaphor is both living and dead – a zombiphor – brought to death, then life, then death again as it moves from subject to subject. The word bus is the conveyor of many things.
Well that’s enough of this business – yeah, you could say I’m bored today. But I’m apparently no more bored than my reader. All a-bored!!