Thanks for voting on the poll for which WordPress prompt I should write about this month. I’ll keep the runners-up in mind for the future!
The winner: Remember that time on the bus, when…? Share your mass transit stories. Now to narrow down which ones to tell! My craziest mass transit story was on a train.
I’ve been on a lot of trains in India and have stories about sitting in one place on the track for 7 hours straight, waiting at a station for 4 hours while putting on a show for the beggar kids, and a time when a mouse climbed in my purse on a train. But my greatest train story happened in Europe during our backpacking adventures in 2007.
Bryan and I had been doing great with all of the transit throughout France, Spain, Austria and much of Italy. In fact, this was the only hiccup on the entire trip. But I guess it was less of a hiccup and more of a belch.
We had purchased open tickets for our train trip down Italy where we could get on any train throughout the day. For those tickets, you hop on the train and the seats are first come, first serve. When you walk up to the trains, you can touch the door and it opens, then closes behind you. When we were ready to go from Bologna to Florence, we went to our platform and hopped on the train 10 minutes before departure. We grabbed great seats! Then quickly realized that NO ONE else was on the train. So, we collected our things and touched the door to exit and assure we were in the right place. But the door wouldn’t open. We ran to another door. And that door wouldn’t open, either.
Then, the train started moving. We looked at each other in panic and wondered where in the world we were headed! We dropped our things and started running through the cars, looking for anyone. We found an intercom and started pushing buttons and calling out for help. No one replied. After a few minutes, I insisted we pull the emergency break. Bryan kept saying we couldn’t because of the sign that says there’s a fee if you use it wrongly. I just couldn’t imagine that they wanted us on that train, so I pulled it.
The train started to slow down and finally someone’s voice came over the intercom. The man was yelling. But he was yelling in Italian, so we still didn’t know what to do. We collected our things again and worked our way to the front of the train. Once we came to a stop, the man showed up. More Italian yelling ensued. He finally asked how we got on the train. When we told him the door opened when we touched it, he was frustrated. It shouldn’t have opened for us. He just pointed at the door and told us to get out.
So there we were, about a mile away from where we started, and he expected us to walk back on the tracks. At that point, we thought we might actually have missed the train we wanted to be on, so we ran with our backpacks back to the station, with people hanging out of windows of the communications tower, yelling at us not to be on the track. We didn’t see another option.
As it turned out, our train was running 30 minutes behind schedule and that train was being moved off of the track to allow another one to arrive.
So that’s the craziest mass transit story I have. And because many of you might be disappointed that it wasn’t in India, here’s a few bonus stories.
I don’t make a practice out of riding buses in India. They’re typically over-packed and missing shocks. While we were studying language in the mountains in 2007, our supervisor suggested we accompany him by bus to another mountain town. We didn’t buy bus tickets ahead of time. We decided to wing it as we went. We ended up on packed-out buses overnight, around 10 hours. On the last, longest bus, we were given a seat that had the least leg room. Even I, who had the shortest legs of us three, couldn’t fit sitting straight. So, we each turned sideways and scooted into each other to survive the ride. The twists and turns through the hills had us thankful we didn’t eat much!
For the way back, we booked a “tourist” bus that cost minimally more but was MUCH more comfortable.
I also have a ton of crazy rickshaw stories (although not exactly MASS transit), mostly because of misunderstanding of where we were going. But my favorite story is from when we were first learning language. Often, when you’re in an auto rickshaw at a stoplight, beggars will come up, touch you and ask for money. On this particular day, we were both exhausted and a beggar girl was being particularly pesky. She didn’t want the food we offered her and just kept hitting Bryan’s leg asking for money. Finally, he commanded her firmly, “chale aao!”, thinking he had said “Go away!” The girl started to walk away mad, then turned around and came back and yelled loudly, “chale jaao!” She was correcting Bryan’s Hindi. He had actually said, “Come here!”, commanding her to get into the rickshaw with us.
Bonus Traffic Video
As a bonus, here’s a video of Bryan driving in the city we lived in first. After exclusively using public transportation our first year in India, we got a car. Bryan is a fantastic driver (this video is from his first month driving). Here’s a taste of the madness he maneuvers daily.