On holiday once, having done a bit of shopping I signalled the approaching bus. As the door opened an enormous burst of noise hit me. It was practically full of under-twenties, all of them shouting at each other. Do you find that adolescent male and females shout? Even when they’re sitting side by side? Perhaps it has something to do with the headphones.
Is the human voice undergoing a change? Boys seem to have developed an indecipherable guttural, glottal-stopped, gabbling bark with hardly any d or t sounds and girls speak with clenched jaws and their tongue clamped to the roof of their mouth so that it’s impossible for them to give vowels their full, rounded shape. Their only usable vowel is ‘eeee’. And, their jaw and their tongue being the way they are, the only way out for sound is the nose. One comical result is that they are unable to pronounce the ‘oo’ sound, so that when they come to sing ‘Happy birthday!’ it has to end with ‘tee yee’.
We were a few hundred yards from my stop, and I pressed the stop button. Whether or not the height of the volume inside the bus had drowned out the sound of the bell I shall never know, but we did not slow down. I rang the bell again but to no avail. With a hundred yards to go I leaned into the driver’s compartment.
‘Stop, please,’ I said. It was a bad mistake.
I have never seen anyone jump so high. He stood on the brakes, I shot forward on to the windscreen. We stopped, I apologised to all, and got out. With the bus disappearing round the bend it was very quiet.