I was having lunch with some friends on a hot Saturday afternoon, when the topic turned to the good old days when air-conditioning was not readily available. We talked about the nostalgic times when SBS buses were truly an experience to behold! I’m sure many of you remember the 70’s to 80’s era of SBS buses:
1) There were no air-conditioning, and windows rattled incessantly beside your ear due to the terrible vibration. Half the windows were always jammed shut, the other half required He-Man’s (if you’re reading this article, you'd remember He-Man and the Masters of the Universe) strength to open.
2) It would be a cold day in hell when you finally sit in an ideal position. If you were not sitting next to the windows, you’d be too shy to ask the passenger next to you to open them. If you were sitting next to the window, the opening was almost always too far ahead or too far behind for you to enjoy the breeze. If the window ahead of you was open, you could count on a lady with long hair seated in front of you, so you got a nice lashing of her Sifone hair (pray there’re no louse or “kutu”) across your face. It always seemed more romantic in the movies.
3) When it rained, nobody bothered to close the windows unless the rain was pelting their faces. The window seals never actually work properly so you’d end up with water drips on you when you sat beside the windows. The windows would fog up from the immense heat generated from everyone’s heavy breathing and the carbon dioxide built-up was enough for the vegetable in the aunties' baskets start photosynthesis again. If you thought that was bad, wait till you see the torrents of water gushing by your feet every time the bus accelerated or braked. Did I mention the little cockroaches scuttling for cover from the rainwater? It looked like a scene from "The Day After Tomorrow".
4) The seats were really just metal frames with ply-board backing lined by thin sponge and red PVC coverings. There were always some numbers scribbled on the back of each chair for you to call “for a good time” if you were feeling bored. Check if you can spot any of your friend’s home numbers (only 6 digits… nobody owned a handphone then). If some long-legged passenger sat behind you, you’d end up with two inverse breasts on your back from their knees caps pressing against you - the seat backs were that thin!
5) Student fares cost only 25 cents then.
Yes sir... I'd love to have hair like that!
6) There was no need to buy hair products. There’re always plenty of Brylcreem smeared on the windows by sleepy old men who leaned their well-greased heads against the window. Simply scrape the cream off the window with a ruler, and you’d have perfect hair to withstand the strongest wind from the wide-open window in front of you. Not to worry even if you never use Brylcreem… they had the same philosophy as Famous Amos - you got to enjoy free smells as well.
7) Bus number signs were not lit up, so good luck spotting your buses at night.
8) There were no buttons for bells – there was only a rubber strip mounted on the roof of the bus for the buzzer. If you were vertically challenged or belonged to the leprechaun/dwarf/elf species, good luck. Be sure to press your buzzer at the most opportune time, because there was no “Bus Stopping” signage to remind the bus driver (we call them bus drivers during those days; nowadays they’re “promoted” to bus captains) to stop at the bus stop. Buzz too early and the bus driver would forget about you and zoom past your bus stop.
Don't we all miss the good old days...