August 8, 2010


We ferried and we bussed it back to Bangkok after (reluctantly) saying goodbye to Mamma Mac and Pappa Mac.
About two hours into our bus ride, after the lights had been dimmed and everyone was about to doze off, the brights came on and the airconditioning was turned off. At first I thought the driver had accidentally knocked the switches and buttons, so everyone sat there in stunned silence waiting for it to come back on. After 20 minutes it was apparent that this was not happening and people began to fidget and twitch, looking around at everyone expectantly like “who’s going to talk to the driver?”
The smell of feet, the malfunctioning toilet and sweat started to fill the two storey bus and I began to feel clausterphobic. I finally flew out of my seat and stormed down the aisle, down the steps to the ‘cockpit’ and looked at the driver.

Now, let me explain a few things about Thai bus drivers. They’re all clinically insane, erratic, dangerous and aggressive by Thai standards. They swear, they swerve and they make a bus journey seem more like the roller coaster ride of death.
I gently sat down on the steps and began fanning myself, motioning to him that we were hot and uncomfortable. I said, as politely as I could, that we were trying to sleep…before I could finish my game of charades, he interrupted with a scream: “NOO SMOKKKINGGGG!!!”
Me: “What? No one is smok..”
I could hear giggling from the passe
ngers upstairs as the bus swerved everytime he opened his mouth. I was clearly a dangerous distraction.
Me: “Please sir, no one is smoking anymore and we’re trying to sleep. It’s 1 am in the morn..”
“Yes I understand that but they’re not smoking anyumore…you can’t smell any…”
At which point I had to break things down into ‘Thanglish”:
“No smoke anymore. FINISH! (With hand motion) it HOT, no sleep! (More motioning) we pay for aircon..”
He was swerving in time with shaking his head at this point so I gave up and sat there for a while longer as it was much cooler than upstairs.

We finally came to a rest stop and we got out. A group of American boys were laughing about the whole thing: “Can you believe he was punishing the whole bus because someone was smoking? That would never happen in America…”
Of course not. It wouldn’t happen in most countries but This is Asia!
When we were getting back on the bus a few of us stood our ground and argued until the driver (and a translator) understood that we wouldn’t get on without airconditioning. FINALLYY he agreed, once there was NO SMOKKINGGGGG.
I stormed on the bus and asked everyone to refrain from lighting up at any point, at which point an American piped up, “Yea, or you’ll have us to deal with. It’s a bad day for Sam O’King!”

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