Sunday, January 10, 2010

And When I Die

If I die in Thailand, I predict that it will be in the act of trying to flag down a bus. This is not based on any vision or insight, I’m no Depak Chopra, but it’s a good guess based on what they call “reality on the ground.”

The big streets of Bangkok are full of buses of all sizes, colors and shapes. The main drag that runs in front of my condo has about thirty, maybe thirty five bus lines running on it. That’s not counting variations within one bus line. Like the 71: there are blue ones and red ones in full size, and a green shortie. The shorties only do a portion of the route, not the full length; I believe that the red and green ones are two different companies. There are also air-con and non-air-con, with different prices and sometimes different colors, occasionally a shocking pink 71 goes by, maybe that one has Karaoke.

Buses do not routinely make all the stops. Someone at the stop must flag down the bus. That’s where the potential for death raises its ugly head.

There are nice, comfortable seats beneath a shelter at my bus stop, but you can’t really sit down. From the seats, you can’t see the buses coming. So everybody is lined up at the curb, scanning the distance like hungry dogs waiting for someone to come home. If you see your bus coming, you must begin gesturing at the driver. This is not always easy.

Traffic is usually pretty heavy, and if it’s slow for some reason, and a whole gaggle of buses comes up the road at the same time, some of the drivers will swing out into the “fast” lanes way before the stop, way before they could see anybody trying to flag them down, maybe way before you could see the number on the bus. So there’s the looking through other buses trying to see the numbers, and then the figuring out a way to get the bus to stop.

There can be a certain amount of entering the traffic involved in this process. I can tell you, if I have been waiting for an hour, and one of my buses has already by-passed the stop, I become quite the daredevil in my desperate attempt to get that thing to stop.

So if you hear that Khun Fred has been killed by traffic in Bangkok, please do not assume that I was walking home from a bar dead drunk. The odds are that I was just trying to get some bus driver’s attention, trying to get somewhere. Places to go, you know, people to see, I have a life after all.


Anonymous said...

Can't you hire a kid, like in Indiana Jones, to be your assistant?

fred c said...

Or I could just spend the money on a cab.

Anonymous said...

Some muscle-man guy in Brooklyn lived to 104. What finally did him in?... Got hit by a minivan, as he was crossing a street! Ya never know...

fred c said...

People ask me if I'm afraid to fly. I tell them hell no, flying is as safe as being in bed, I'm afraid of traffic.