Friday, 23 November 2007

On the buses

Been in bed now for two days with a frightful tropical cold. I must have caught it on the bus. I go everywhere by bus now, it is so easy and I have all the routes down and instead of costing 40 ringgits in a cab a day it costs 3 on the bus.. And I like the bus anyway, full of' local colour'. I DID get very cross last week though.
The bus approached after a rather unusually long wait, it was one of the posh new Rapid buses, not one of the filthy old buses where you throw your coins on a pile of dirty washing when you get in,. It went straight past. I yelled and it slowly came to halt and I had to run down the road to get on. WHEN I got on, puffing, I proffered my 1RM and instead of givng me a 1RM ticket from his new little bus conductors set. (JUST like one I had when I was 5!!) The Malay Indian driver,rather officiously I thought, said "Where are you going" " Batu Ferighhi" says I. "Oh" says he," that is 1.50 RM". I had already put 1RM in his little shiny bus conductors posting box and I knew it was the right fare. "No" I says " 1RM!" "NO" he says, "1.50 RM". Oh to hell with it! I forked a out another oncer and put it down the shute. Then I held out my hand for change. "NO change" he says. Grr! I started to boil, but by this time even the gentle Malays were getting a bit edgy and I was getting some beady looks from some flatty sandalled ex pats. I went grumpily to my seat.
Batu Feringghi arrives and I move to get off at the centre door. The getting OFF door does not open. The other door is by the driver and has a red sticker saying NO EXIT. He opens that door.. SO I have to go all the way down the bus to get off. As I got to his little cabin I gave him a full on blast, lapsing into terrific pidgin English, which you do when you have been here for a bit.. "YOU VERY BAD MAN!!' I cried "YOU BIG CHEAT" I glared at him and flounced off the bus. Behind me I heard shouts and general consternation.
On the way back, waiting for the bus on the other side of the road about an hour later, blow me if the very same bus didn't arrive with the very same driver with a completely empty bus.! Very embarrassing. He stops the bus and leans out to me, our altercation had CLEARLY been rankling him.
"You say Moto Ferry!" he says (or some such place I had never heard of )
" No", I says, "I said Batu Feringghii".
" No" he says.
" No" says I, and so on.
"OK" I said, "how about not stopping?"
"You must put hand up" he says (demonstrating)
OK I can do that. This is new posh Rapid bus rules, just like in England. On the old buses you simply had to be in a five mile radius of the bus for them to stop so desperate were they for passengers. Sometimes we'd wait for five minutes for someone to slouch down the road, navigate the traffic and get on. And then, no" Oh gosh THANK YOU'S or anything like pensioners do In England when the bus driver makes them run the last fifty yards out of the kindness of his heart.
" What about not givng me change then?" I says. In the old buses you just sifted through the pile of change on the laundry yourself for the requisite amount.
"No change" he says," I show!' and with that he gets off the bus to show me the sign on the side which says NO CHANGE GIVEN.
It was not there.
It had fallen off.
OK, but it should be there, right? Yup.
Now to the vexed question of the price. He prised open a little compartment and brings out the new pricing list. On the old buses it used to be painted on the front of the bus, scratched off rather badly, and was finally negotiable. On Rapid it is now 1.50 apparently, even though we don't get all the free carbon monoxide we used to get on the old buses, the great black plume of pollution that used to follow us wherever we went and fog our vision when we disembarked. You get to miss that. That and the string holding the wheels on.
OK, so we were sorted. I apologised for calling him a big cheat and he said he very sorry too and beamed at me. He was going home now which was why the bus was empty but he would give me a lift he said. I hopped on the bus and he drove me home. We big, big friends by the time I get to Miami Green.
1RM is about 14 pence.I think its time I got back to the real world.

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