This supermarket trip is more than transport from A to B for the passengers who use it every week. It is an opportunity to chat, share stories, inquire about local developments, vent about the rising cost of living, observe changes through the bus windows, and, most importantly, feel like a part of their community.
Joyce is 92 and partial blindness could leave her feeling isolated without the Shopper Bus. With a distinguished career in the civil service spanning 35 years, she dedicated herself to the Pensions Department, specialising in war pensions. When we chatted on the Shopper Bus trip, she recounted her experiences, as if they happened just yesterday.
Joyce relies on the Shopper Bus once a week, it’s a lifeline that she can’t do without. It’s not just about freedom, – it’s the camaraderie and lively conversations with fellow passengers that she treasures.
Eileen is 81, a retired primary school helper and salesperson. She exclaims, “It is fantastic,” while buying 24 cans of Diet Coke every week – an indulgence only made possible with the assistance of the bus service and passenger assistant who helps with the bags and bulky items.
On the trip, I crossed paths with several other passengers: Maureen, a retired property manager, Joan, a former traffic warden, David, a former restauranteur, and Barbara, a retired secretary.
Our journey took us to Sainsbury’s, where everyone dispersed to shop. When they finished, Pam, the Passenger Assistant, lent a hand to get their purchases back on board. I had to retrieve some tomato sauce for Maureen – it’s so easy to forget something, and in a world where a week long wait for ketchup is unthinkable, a helping hand becomes invaluable.
Joan described the Shopper Bus experience as a “social club.” Passengers, many of which won’t have seen anyone all week, exchanged news about people, discussed changes in the neighbourhood, and chatted about this and that. Lillian, mid 90’s with difficulty walking unaided looked to her friends for reassurance about moving to a new flat with a lift, a major decision for someone in their 90s. The conversation flowed with a willingness to offer assistance, reflecting the sense of community that has formed among these passengers.
This experience underscored that the bonds uniting us are often unassuming, almost invisible on their own, yet immensely powerful when woven together through shared experiences. Whether these experiences are remarkable or mundane, the Shopper Bus helps the weaving of these threads, strengthening the community and rekindling the sense of belonging for its members. In turn, it enriches all our lives with newfound connections and a sense of being part of our neighbourhood community.