Poor Mrs Bremridge.
She took ill on the way back from the matinée at the Royal Theatre. A one-man presentation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman with James Tibbott – a bit high-brow for her companions but perfect for Molly B. She had quite a career in the West End until Russell swept her off her feet to Kenya.
Billy Young was the coach driver, standing in for Erin because he had the Transit licence and Erin only drove the Scanias – too big deal to handle a load of OAPs.
So it was up to him to do something when Mrs B had her attack.
He didn’t know what it was, but it looked bad, shivering and shaking like she was having a fit. And the moans. It was because she made so much noise that Billy stopped in the first place. Poor old dear looked like she might not make it.
So Billy took no chances. Drove straight to A&E, fighting panic all the way that the others would come down with it too. Some kind of bug, you never knew what it was – and suddenly you’re disabled in a wheelchair with half your gut removed.
Unbelievable, but having a busload of OAPs on their doorstep worked for Mrs B. The triage nurse had her put straight through for treatment without even waiting. Which was how come Billy knew what it was before they left. Malaria apparently – once you had it, attacks kept recurring.
Billy shivered. Not for him. So when he dropped the lot of them at the Civic Centre, he got the bus back to the yard and scrubbed it down with the first things he could find – washing up liquid and bleach from under the sink.
It got to him at home too. Poor Mrs Bremridge, shaking so violently. It spooked him bad and that was no lie. It set him thinking too. Maybe bleach wasn’t enough. What if he caught it, exposed to it all the time because it kept lurking in his bus?
Panic sent him to the Internet – where he found it. An aerosol bomb that misted up enclosed spaces with ammonium chloride. Killed all germs by oxidising them, it said on the label, knocked them down in mid-air. Shut the windows, put the thing in the middle of the floor, hit the button.
It sure misted up the place, a white haze that ghosted the whole of the inside. Trouble was, his Dad caught him at it – it was his company after all. Gave him an earful about filling a perfectly good bus with white smoke.
He calmed down when Billy explained though. Two pints of Best Bitter it took before the Old Man got it. Another two and he reckoned Billy was a genius. Sterilise the vehicle was what the stuff did, made it safe from germs for everyone who stepped aboard. A business advantage, they’d be rich.
And how many times had Billy himself had to hop over to Germany or the Czech Republic because one of their other drivers had caught a bug from one of the passengers? A whole coach-load marooned in a hotel that they had to pay for, and then argue about with the insurance company.
They bought a job lot of aerosols after that. Enough for their whole fleet to carry every day they were away from home – Billy’s Dad, Len, Erin, Billy himself and Fagin – thirty-five bombs a week minimum.
Their accountant complained of course, but it was worth every penny being able to guarantee that every trip was sterilised. And business went boom, boom!
Then the Old Man got smart. Found a machine that worked cheaper and did the job automatically. Misted up all their buses every night in the yard – with hydrogen peroxide mist which was way more potent. And what the heck, they had to clean the buses anyway, so pushing a button was no effort.
Stopped a lot of people getting ill Billy reckoned. Him and the other drivers for a start. They didn’t seem to come down with the sniffles any more, at least not as much. Of course they still had people throw up on the road, school-kids with motion sickness or whatever.
But thanks to Mrs Bremridge, it was never anything serious. They had sterilised coaches now, the best service on the road. Let those posh London companies chew on that.