MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “bus”

The off-course bus

http://ttvalueinvesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/route.jpgIt arrived on time and appeared just like any other of its type. It had four double doors symmetrically situated across one end, large windows, and an advertisement painted across both sides. From its exterior, it seemed like a normal bus. Even inside, it did not differ from others – it had enough space for passengers to be seated or standing and it was in great condition. Almost new. But there was something that made this bus special. You couldn’t tell at first. And most of all, you never expected what would come.

You would stop the bus at the stop and get on, maybe even find a seat. You presumed it would take you to your destination – the city centre – relatively quickly. But half way there, the bus would suddenly change course. If you were too distracted in your own thoughts it would take you a while to realise you were off course. Others would acknowledge it as soon as the bus took a “wrong” turn. Some passengers would react. Others would stress that they would be late for their appointments. Some others would simply remain silent, waiting to see what would happen. The driver would not respond to any.

After a while, you would realise the bus was not going to the city centre. The passengers that reacted intensely would soon tire and be quiet. And as the bus took an unknown route, almost all passengers would begin to plan scenarios in their head of where they would end up. These ranged from a serial killer bus driver that would throw them off a cliff, to a surprise destination where a millionaire would host a party to advertise a new acquisition. You would conjure in your head whatever you wanted, but you would be well aware that expectation was always the root of all disappointment. So you would try and pretend that you didn’t care where the bus was going.

After a long while, the bus would return to its course and, taking double time, would end up at the city centre, where it was supposed to be going in the first place. But, during that route, all passengers would have calmed down and, lost in their thoughts, dreams and mental to-do-lists, would not realise they had arrived. That was the point of this bus – to make you understand that what matters most is the route and how you get to your destination, not so much your final point of arrival.

The leather bag and the half-ticket

Bus ticketEvery time the smell of leather filled his nostrils, he remembered that incident on the bus. He was well aware why he had associated this pungent smell of processed skin with a means of transport. It was all because of the new leather bag the woman sitting on the front seat held full of pride that so dominantly inflicted its scent onto his subconscious. Whatever the case, despite the churning of his stomach every time that smell encountered his nose, he could not help but smile as he recounted that particular episode.

It was a day he was heading off for the airport for a business trip. He had scheduled his parting time from the town promptly, in order to arrive at the departure lounge with plenty of time to spare. There was always some unexpected adventure to happen on the way. It was bound to occur with his peculiar strand of luck.

And it did.

Once on the bus, he presented the driver with 1.5 times the amount for the ticket, as he did not have the precise change. The driver searched his pockets, his fanny pack, his side-lockers to find the right amount of coins to give back. All the while, our traveler waited, trying to hold on and not go sliding down the bus aisle due to the clumsy driving that was taking place at the same time. That is right where the woman with the pungent leather bag was sitting. He remembered it precisely because she wore a huge black hat with a black feather sticking out on the right side, and he recalled wondering what on earth was in that bag that could actually fit the crocodile out of whose skin it was made.

The bus reached the next stop and the driver was still frantically searching for change. He turned round and asked the passenger sitting behind him if he had some cash. Then he asked the traveler for some too. The traveler remained dumbfounded. If he had the cash, would he not have given the exact change needed in the first place and avoided this commotion?

Change was finally found and deposited in the traveler’s hand. Now all that remained was the ticket.

“Hold on. It’s not that simple”. The driver seemed confused and in disarray. So was the traveler. What on earth was going on?

At the fourth stop since the traveler had embarked, the driver got out of his cabin, took a ticket, validated it in the machine, tore it in half and gave one end to the traveler and the other to the old man sitting behind the driver. “I’ve run out of reduced-price tickets, so you’ll have to share one,” he said as he calmly returned behind the wheel and continued his shabby driving, satisfied he had sorted it all out.

The traveler gazed at his half-ticket in amazement. This was a first. But, he simply took his bag and moved a bit further down the leather-smelling front to finally sit down for the rest of the bumpy ride.

Even after disembarking from that bus, he could still smell the leather bag right until he entered the shower later that evening at his foreign destination. He had also kept the half-ticket. Just in case no-one believed him when he recounted this story.

Also part of Daily Prompt: Smell You Later

The tomb of a king and the trouble of a peasant

Macedonian starIt was not every day you would visit a King. No matter if he was no longer alive. A King would forever be a King. And that was important and majestic in its own right. Billy had learnt to live with the bare necessities, as his farm would produce all he needed to live and some extras to sell at the market. That was all his income and how he managed to scrape by. So, to him, an audience with a King was something extraordinary. A true privilege. At least he thought so.

The discovery of the royal tomb found deep underground by archaeologists who had devoted a large part of their careers excavating in search of this, had taken the country by surprise. No-one expected they would be lucky enough or even blessed with the honor of witnessing at least some of the riches a past monarch had lived with. And to everyone’s delight, it was announced that this was the Warrior King, the General, the one who had united their country and who had made it the most prosperous in the region, at least during his reign. He was the figure that adorned their national currency, whose name was on countless of streets, buildings and auditoriums. He was the King children first learned about during their history lessons. And now, Billy would go see for himself the magnitude of his greatness.

Even that, though, was no easy task.

It was winter and a heavy one for that matter. The town had never been so snowed down for at least twenty years now. But it was a day when Billy did not have a market to go to and he wanted to escape the frost. The royal tombs were located an hour’s drive away, he was told.

So he went to the train station and purchased a return ticket. It wasn’t too expensive and he was already excited about his venture. Then the delay came.

The train had ran into some bad weather, which caused it to slow down. But it was not too bad, Billy thought. A half-hour delay would only mean he would have to read the inscriptions that accompanied each relic a bit faster now. The museum, after al,l was only open for five hours during the day. It was located in the very space the tomb was found, especially constructed so as to preserve and properly exhibit the findings. So it was only right that it would be open while still daylight – because, really, who would want to be touring a tomb after dark?DSC00784

So, anyway, Billy had an enjoyable train ride to his destination, although the heating seemed to not be working properly because by the time he had arrived he could not feel his feet. He thought two icicles were attached to his lower ends instead. Once off the train, he looked around, hoping to at least find a café where he could grab a hot drink to get his blood flowing normally again. But there was nothing.

Absolutely nothing. This station might as well have been located in the middle of his field. There was no sign of civilization around it. Nor any other train for that matter. There was only a bus, whose driver was hastily announcing that it was departing any minute now. Billy ran up to him and enquired how he could get to the royal tombs. The bus driver said it was another half hour from there but this bus would take him to the centre of the town and from them he would have to take another bus to go to the Museum.

Billy was already getting a headache. But there was no other way, so he took a seat on the bus (after paying of course) and tried to understand how his route would fan out now.

DSC00776It took Billy three and a half hours to finally arrive at the museum. You see, he unfortunately got on the wrong bus at the town centre and was driven off somewhere else, so by the time the next bus came he was already waiting for 20 minutes in the cold. And in this next bus, which rattled like a wooden cart drawn to market, the bus driver said that he should obtain his own ticket from the machine, but the machine would not cooperate, and he could not make any sense out of what the old men on the bus were trying to tell him. In the racket that was going on, he sensed that the stone gates and the large sign that said “Royal Tomb – Museum” was where he should get off. He thanked everyone, still not understanding their response and jumped off.

Billy was awed by the Museum. The Royal Tombs were strategically camouflaged under a hill that had turned white from the snow that was now falling heavily. As you walked inside, you could feel the imperialness overwhelm you. The gold jewelry, together with the silver blades, shields and weapons and other precious ornaments that were found in the sealed-off tomb sparkled in the darkness of the museum. It was all too much for words. It was so much more than Billy ever imagined. There was even the exact entrance of the royal burial chamber, left just as it was found by the archaeologists. You could just feel the magnificence it emanated and the chills that would have filled the very people who first discovered this.

Macedonian-queen's-wreathBilly was enthralled and enraptured by every piece of that museum. So much, that he did not even realise he had seen it all, twice, and that it was now time to go. He had to hurry back if he was to catch the last train home.

But did he have to scramble with bus routes again? Fortunately, there was a tourist group leaving the museum at the same time, and he was smart and lucky enough to smuggle into the back of the bus without being seen; he was small enough and looked foreign so he could easily be assumed to be one of the group. The only problem was, he didn’t know where the bus was heading to.

The group stopped for lunch somewhere, and Billy jumped off, noticing that a bus with the same number as the one that brought him from the station was about to depart across the street. He ran again and jumped in. “I bet the Kings didn’t have such problems,” he thought to himself as he arrived at the train station still panting.

DSC00815Just as he got off the bus, the train stationmaster appeared, straightening his thick white moustache, and pulling up his trousers to cover his oversized belly. It was snowing very heavily now and the train tracks could not even be seen.

I’m afraid you’re gonna have to find alternative transport, young man. There are no trains passing tonight.

Billy froze. Literally. You could stick a hat on him and call him a snowman.

The bus driver who had just dropped him off felt pity for him and offered to take him to the suburban bus station, where after more expenses and another couple of hours, Billy was finally back home, wrapped under a blanket in front of the fireplace.

It’s no easy task visiting a King!

 

N.B. 1 This story was inspired by a visit to the Macedonian Royal Tombs in Vergina, Greece and the adventure to get there.

N.B. 2. The photos are mine, taken in Aegae (Vergina) and Veria respectively on 30 December 2014.

Wishing and hoping

bus-cartoon-comic-breadwig.com_What if everything everyone ever wished for you came true? Wouldn’t that make you super happy? Wouldn’t that make you feel invincible? Megan had the strange ability to realise every wish everyone else ever wished for her.

Not her own though.

And there was one catch. The wishes that came true where those that were spoken by the elderly passengers of a specific bus. The number 23 that followed a circular route up to the town’s old medieval castle.

Megan would take the bus once a week to go to her grandmother’s house. She lived in the hills of the upper city, where the ruins of the old town walls were situated. They were used to fortify the city in the Byzantine times and later even used as a prison when the city came under siege. Now all that remained was ruins. The older townsfolk frequently travelled up there because that is where most of their leisure centres were situated. And tourists travelled up there because it featured one of the most amazing panoramic views of the city below.

Megan first noticed the coincidence when she got up to give her seat to an old woman who got on the bus. The old lady thanked her and wished that Megan would always be as smiling and kind. Megan could not stop smiling for the rest of the day. No matter how much she tried. Even when she was watching a tearful period drama that night on television, she could not shake off that smile.

She did not pay too much attention to that at the time. But the next week, when the same incident happened (Megan thought it was only proper that she would give up her seat for the older passengers), an old man wished her that she would find someone who would appreciate her kindness and good manners. Fate would have it that at her stop she slipped on a small puddle of water that had formed at the middle bus doors and almost fell out. But she conveniently fell (literally) into the arms of a young man who was standing just outside. She fell in love with his smile and strong grip. He was mesmerized by her sparkling eyes. That was the beginning of their long-term relationship.

It just seemed that whatever was said in that “magic bus”, as Megan called it, it came true. And it was all good wishes that brightened her life. She was bound to get it all: to be smiling and happy, to find success and joy, to live a life as she wished.

When Megan decided to tell her grandmother about her special trips up the hill, her grandmother smiled widely. She told her a tale that there was a princess who lived in the castle three hundred years ago. When she was born, she was blessed by all the townsfolk who were invited by the King and Queen to share their joy of having a newborn. The townsfolk were so enchanted by her beauty that they simply wished that the child be happy and have everything she would ever wish for. Megan’s grandmother said that the princess indeed lived a long and happy life and it was under her rule that the city thrived. She joked and told her that the elderly passengers of the bus could be descendants of these townsfolks who believed Megan was the reincarnation of this princess, and so she deserved to have the same fortune. Megan smiled. She was too old to believe in fairy tales.

But on the ride home, an old woman whom she helped onto the bus took her hand and wished her that the kindness she offers be returned to her. And that her children will be as blessed as her. Megan smiled and thanked her kindly. That night, her Prince Charming proposed and ten months later, they had their first child who grew up to be as handsome as his father and as caring as his mother.

Megan slowly started to believe in fairy tales. But maybe it was just the fact that she wanted to believe so much that made all her wishes come true.

Or maybe there truly is a magic bus roaming around each town?

 

N.B. 1 Inspired in Thessaloniki by the Heptapyrgion – Yedi Kule.

N.B. 2 Song that inspired the title of this story is “Wishin’ and hopin’” by Dusty Springfield

What?

rude-boys-bus-stop-10300805The other day I took the bus down town. At the next stop an old lady grabbed the handle at the door and yelled to the driver if it made a certain stop. After he yelled back to affirm, she – with great difficulty – pulled herself in. There weren’t many people in the bus during that time of day. Two twin girls had taken up two seats in the front of the bus (you know, the ones that are usually assigned to people who need them the most) and their mother was sitting next to them across the aisle. I looked around and the people commuting weren’t really old. At least not as old as this lady.

She was obviously in pain from something. You could see it in her facial expression that she needed to sit down, as she was already panting from the effort to catch the bus and then actually get on it.

She looked around and I observed.

No-one seemed to care.

No-one, not even one person – anyone – even thought of giving up their seat for this woman. (I was standing, so I couldn’t really help).

You could see she was boiling inside, looking at the twin little girls who were carefreely staring out their window, and then their mother who didn’t really seem concerned about anything other than when they would reach their stop.

The women sitting next to the mother then got up to get off at the next stop and the old lady tried to squeeze in to sit in the inner side of the seat as the mother had not budged. The old lady resorted to clearly stating that she wants to sit down because her foot is hurting, and only then did the mother get up to let her sit.

I am left wondering, are there no manners anymore? Savoir-vivre and savoir-faire are obviously non-existent, and the only thing left is the savoir-moi.

We live in a society where everyone only cares about themselves. Where the mentality of “as long as I’m ok, I don’t care about anyone else” reigns. Where giving up your seat for someone who obviously needs it more than you should be a given. But it’s not. (And let’s not even talk about the example the parents give their children…)

Where the words ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you’ are no longer part of our vocabulary, but instead they have given way to ‘what’, and all the swear words you can imagine.

Rudeness is such a part of our everyday lives that people have stopped paying attention to or being bothered by exactly how….rude it all is.

Walking on the sidewalk and trying to overpass people who are trailing along at snail’s pace, talking on the phone, while at the same time puffing chimney-loads of smoke back at your face. Trying to quickly insert all your shopping in the plastic bags at the end of the counter, so you have time to pay the bill without having to gather remaining items, when the next customer pushes his/her way over to your side and is literally breathing down your neck. Reaching a bus stop and realizing there is a person there taking up the entire bench, having comfortably adjusted themselves in the very middle of the seat with all their belongings on either side. There are numerous more examples of how everyone tries to make everything easier for themselves, without caring how much more difficult things become for everyone else.

There is no ‘we’ in our lives anymore. Only an ‘I’ which comes first.

What you can do in high heels

high heelsDiana knew this day was going to be different. Hectic from the very start, she prepared herself for a lot of running around across the city and some sort of inevitable irritation. But she was not at all prepared for what ensued…

The weatherman had said the day before that the day would be warmer than usual and sunny. Yet when she got out of bed, Diana could already hear the thunder and rain battling outside her window. “Was I watching a re-run of the weather yesterday?” she thought as she muttered to herself that these weather people never get it right – “they’ll know tomorrow what the weather was like today, great help that will be”.

She put on warmer clothes than she had picked out the day before, but kept the high heels. She had to look elegant no matter the weather. Her first conference was at 9am and it was already 8.30! She quickly threw everything that she needed into her bag, grabbed her keys and rushed out the door. Within five minutes she was at the bus stop. Yet, as it usually occurs the bus was late. It was a quarter to nine now and no bus in sight. And the traffic was unimaginable. “WTF! Do people lose their minds whenever it begins to rain?

She began walking fast – short to jogging- to her destination but was lucky enough that when she reached the next bus stop, the bus was just pulling up and she jumped on. Of course, it was packed. And of course, you could hardly breathe. But she soon got off. “Now where is this place?” She didn’t really know where she was going, but no matter how much time she tries to leave in advance, she somehow always ended up late. After consulting her digital map (yes, the GPS) she figured she would now have to walk a little further. In the rain. This meant, that of course, a couple of cars skid by not caring she was on the sidewalk and splashed her with the puddles that have formed at the side of the road. Luckily, her anorak was waterproof, and her shoes were out of colorful plastic, so the damage was at least controllable.

She reached her destination only 15 minutes late. But given the weather conditions, she was not the only one late. She stood in the huge queue that she saw forming and waited patiently. What she noticed was that the line was not moving. In fact, it was not even a line. People were coming in from all sides! She pushed her way to the front (being nice was not an option here, if you wanted to get inside). When her turn came to register, the officer in charge told her she was waiting at the wrong queue.

Diana almost erupted. Couldn’t they put signs above people’s heads to inform them where they should stand or ask for assistance?

It took around 25 minutes to get things sorted. She hoped the conference would have been worth the trouble.

But it was not. Half the speakers were unable to make it and the other half were blabbing away about things that turned out to be irrelevant to the reason she (and most other participants) were there for.

Around noon, she left. She had another meeting at 2pm across town.

She decided to take the metro but with luck clearly not on her side, the nearest station had been closed due to a protest that turned wild in the area.

I’m going to need new heels or new feet by the end of this day!” she thought to herself as she sighed and searched for a water bottle.

Diana spent the day running around town in the most uncomfortable of ways and reaching her destination puffed out, flustered and constantly a few minutes late.

She managed to cram into the day everything she needed to do and that at least satisfied her.

It had not stopped raining that day, despite the weatherman’s smiling forecasts of “sunshine throughout”.

When she finally returned home around midnight she literally passed-out on her bed. “Was this bed always this comfortable and fluffy?” she wondered as she drifted into sleep, tired but content at all she had achieved today. And in high heels. That alone is an accomplishment!

Also part of Daily Post: Out of Breath

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