I’ve been feeling a bit flaky about not writing lately. I just haven’t done anything! Been staying at home ~ staying off my foot. Ordering food ~ gaining weight. Oh well, I lost a lot of weight in Thai Binh ~ I guess it’s okay to gain some of it back…..some of it. So, since I don’t have any new stories to tell you, I thought I’d tell you an old one. One that happened this summer, on a bus……
I was still living in Thai Binh at the time and was just dying to get out of there even if only for overnight. Plus, it was my birthday and I just wanted to give myself a little treat. So I decided to take a bus to Ha Noi and hang out with Mike. It was always difficult to figure out which was the ‘right’ bus to take. I’d taken a bus one time that stopped at every single little town and village along the way and took four and a half hours to get there …a trip that should have taken only two. Only once did I find ‘the right bus’ which went straight there. Anyway, I figured it didn’t matter either way. I was just happy to be doing something other than staying in my room and working on lesson plans ~ I really needed a break. No longer convinced there actually was any such thing as ‘the right bus’ to Ha Noi, I just hopped on one and hoped for the best.
There are two people who work on each bus ~ the driver and the ‘other guy’ who collects the fare, helps folk load their luggage and whatnot and calls out the destination from the open door of the bus when moving slowly through the small towns. As I got on the bus I walked straight to the back as I usually do, just wanting to be incognito and enjoy the scenery. But the ‘other guy’ waved at me to come up to the front and sit behind the driver….sort of ‘join the group’, you know? So I did. What the heck.
They always play some sort of music video, tv show or movie while the buses are on the road. Gives people something to look at besides the mind-bogglingly beautiful scenery…….? They really love romantic music here so the videos are all about love ~ lost love, unrequited love, blissful love, insanely unrealistic love…..you get the picture. And the tv shows are some bizarre mix of soap opera, Benny Hill and the Jeffersons. So, while I really wanted to enjoy the scenery, those shows are sort of like a train wreck….you just can’t help but look! They’re just, plain weird!
The trip was moving along at a good pace, making a few stops but not many and by this time the bus was about half full. We pulled into a small town to take on a new passenger and this passenger needed a lot of help. He was in terrible shape. He had two men holding him up….barely. He couldn’t keep his feet under himself to support his own weight. So, two guys from the bus came to the door to help him get on……or rather, help get him on…..he wasn’t taking part in the effort…. Now, I’m sitting behind the driver, right by the door, watching this scene. This guy’s head is lolling all over the place and I’m wondering is he unconscious? Is he mentally disabled? Is he having a seizure? Is he unbelievably ill? The four men have grabbed one part or the other of his body, trying to heave and pull him (through the narrow door, mind you) on to the bus and I’m thinking I should move. I really should move. How can I move without appearing rude? At which point all the men started falling over as everyone squeezed like toothpaste from a tube through the door and this guy is headed straight toward my lap with ‘the throw up face’ and I’m thinking, “Oh shit, I should’ve moved!”
Well, he didn’t land in my lap…..and thankfully, he didn’t throw up….and he was carted off to the back of the bus and laid out on the full back seat. The two men from the village got off the bus and it took off……and I was thinking, “You’re kidding, right? He needs assistance! He needs an aide! You can’t just throw someone in that condition on a bus and leave him!” Then the ‘other guy’, who’d help get him on, came walking back up to the front of the bus and started making fun of the guy! He started walking around all jerky and bobbing his head around and rolling his eyes! I couldn’t believe it! How rude!! I tried to not look at him, to not give his actions any credence. Unreal! He finally saw the look on my face, looked right me and after a moment said, “Heroin.” The guy was loaded out of his mind. Completely wasted…..and now he was at the back of the bus, passed out. Wow.
So, with the bus back on the road, they started playing a movie. It was a Chinese movie with Vietnamese subtitles, so needless to say, I didn’t understand the dialogue, but I didn’t need to. It was one of those movies in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (or Kill Bill) with the surreal martial arts, you know? ……and it was hilarious! I don’t know ~ maybe it was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but that movie kinda came out of the blue. I had just witnessed this really bizarre, nerve-rattling, sad, rather dire scene and here’s this total goofball comedy being shown in a foreign language and I was absolutely cracking up! Everybody was ~ even the bus driver ~ yeah, he was watching it, too! As a former bus driver myself, with years of safety training, I’d have to say he broke just about every bus driving rule California has to offer! But, you know what? We made it to Ha Noi in just over two hours, safe and sound.
By the way, the name of the movie is Shaolin Soccer and I highly recommend it…..maybe have a beer or two first! It’s goofy, it’s stupid and it’s very funny! I don’t know what happened to the junkie. I hope he’s all right.
Well, that’s my bus ride to Ha Noi. I guess I did get on the ‘right bus’, after all.