Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Bus Accident

Taking a simple bus trip is a big adventure for me. I have a good bus-map, so finding the right bus is no problem, and paying is no problem, even though you need to explain your destination because fares are based upon distance, I can handle that. The problem is figuring out where you are and finding the place that you need to get off. Asking for help has been less than fruitful for me. Either they don’t understand me, or they understand me but think they know better than me where I am actually going, or they don’t have a clue where the bus is at any given moment, which would seem odd in any country except Thailand (is it that important? we’re on bus number 113, in Bangkok), or maybe they’re just screwing with me. Now I just smile and try to figure it out for myself.

Last week I took a bus trip for a hospital visit. Map in hand, I tracked our movement across the city, as much by time and distance as by landmarks, Thailand is not a great signage country. Along the way we encountered a tiny drama.

Bus stops can be chaotic, there are about fifty buses along the road outside my condo. The buses don’t always actually stop, some drivers preferring to roll slowly along as people get on and off. I’m sure it’s fun for them, and maybe they have a reason. Our bus was a beat up old fan bus, and at one stop our driver quickly pulled in front of a bus that was using the rolling method. The other bus was a beautiful, new, bright yellow air-con bus. The other driver declined to stop rolling, and in the process we clipped his fender, I didn’t see anything but it was loud and we felt a bump.

Our “stewardess,” all Thai buses have a uniformed ticket seller on board, shouted the alarm and our driver pulled to the curb on the other side of the bus stop. He got out and walked around to say hi. I figured, we were in front of him, he could see us, he could have stopped. I was wondering how long this would all take when the driver almost instantly got back on our bus and we set off. All taken care of with a simple smile, no doubt.

In Thailand, as many problems as possible are taken care of at the most local of levels.

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