Here I am at the busy bus station and the bus I’m waiting for is a bit late. There’s a crowd waiting for the bus that looks a bit freeform but if you look really carefully you can more or less make out that it’s a queue. Or can you? Time will tell. Because I can’t work out which part of the ‘queue’ I’m meant to be in, I take up my usual position of leaning against the wall not far from the disabled toilets.

Of course if you stand anywhere in the bus station it’s like standing near a sign that says FREE BEER HERE SOON because if you stand there for even a short time a line (as the Americans call it) stretches at either side of you so that you could be at the front of the queue, in the middle of the queue or at the back of the queue. And there you were just thinking that you were leaning against a wall. The older woman standing beside me has got more bags than somebody who has won a supermarket sweep. A thin man approaches her and says ‘Is this the queue?’ and she says ‘I hope so!’ and he says ‘Well I’m not in it!’ and he wanders off.

I try to work out where I am in the mass of people all waiting for the bus, all hoping that it’s a double-decker. I think I arrived just after those two students who are sitting there, and they seem to be just after the man with the two kids. But what about the bloke shouting into his phone? Is he before or after me? Maybe he has no idea. Maybe that’s what he’s shouting about.

Somebody says to me ‘What are you doing here, Bard of Barnsley?’ and it’s really hard to think of a witty reply because I’m in a bus station with lots of other people so it must be fairly obvious. ‘I’m waiting for chips’ I say, pretending I’m in a chip shop queue. He seems satisfied and wanders off.

The bus comes in and lots of people get off and stroll away. The driver gets up and closes the bus doors. If you weren’t used to travelling by bus you might think that this would be the point when the mass of humanity nearby resolved itself into a queue but that doesn’t happen. It’s as though we’re just folks wandering about in a Lowry painting, or if we’re just extras in a remake of Kes waiting to be called onto the set.

By now, though, I can tell that everybody knows exactly where they are in the queue. I reckon that Barnsley folks in the bus station have a version of that radar that stops bats flying into walls. It’s a kind of Tarn sixth sense, a way of suddenly solving the Rubik’s Cube of the bus station so that what appears to be chaos suddenly becomes order. One or two people who are sitting down stand up, but they don’t really need to, the bus driver’s not back yet.

Ah, here he is. He gets on and the bus door is welcoming and open. People stand up. People who were sitting in front of people stand behind people, and vice versa. Somebody gestures to somebody who is lounging near me, and they go ahead of the gesturer.

There’s something almost artistic, almost operatic, about this sequence dance. I can imagine a chorus of singers belting out ‘You’re in front of me, love; no, you’re in front of me’ for all they’re worth. There’s a minimalist ballet of hand movements and signals involving the brief lifting of a handbag, a tiny nod of a head.

I peel myself away from the wall and join the thing that’s gradually becoming a queue. I reflect, not for the first time on the fact that one of the joys of public transport is that it’s just that: public. Everybody is here; and on the bus, because there’s no first or standard class, everybody is equal. I chuckle at the idea of a bus company trying to institute the idea of First Class on a bus. It would be at the front on a double decker and you’d get a toy wheel to play with.

And now it’s my turn and I’m on the bus and the people who were here before me and the people who were here behind me are behind me. It works. You’re in front of me, love; come on.