Stuff I Know

Just stuff by me about me and my life, such as it is.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kidnapped! No, Not Really

I was just going to write a short bit about how unprofessional bus drivers are here, but it has turned into more than that. Bear with me and you'll see how.

As a lot, they do seem to be rather unprofessional, though. Of course I haven't ridden with every bus driver in China. I can only make inferences from the ones I have.

First of all, it seems they feel they are the kings of the road, especially when it comes to pedestrians. Get out of the way or I am not responsible for what happens. In some cities in China, the bus driver has a button he can press, other than the horn, that plays a recorded spoken warning to those outside on the street. I assume it says, "Get out of the way, idiot," or something to that effect. On one bus I rode, the driver kept his finger on the button nearly the whole time.

Also, bus drivers know they have you by the short curlys, especially private bus drivers who work a particular route. You either get on the bus or don't; they really don't care. They know there is pretty much no other option than to pay the fare and get on board, unless you feel like walking. And once you have paid, that is all they seem to care about. If they drive like idiots and people are knocked out of their seats it doesn't really matter much to them.

But I have to say, the most unprofessional thing that I have seen so far happened to me the other day.

I had decided to go to the Shaolin Temple. There are always "private buses" that run to the tourist sites, but usually these kind of buses stop at "extra" spots along the way, ostensibly to show you something more, but really holding you hostage until enough people from your bus buy enough things to make the driver's kickback worth while, or until enough people complain loudly enough. When possible, I try to avoid these buses like the plague.

That is why I went to the actual bus station and bought an actual bus ticket, and got on an actual bus headed to the Shaolin Temple. As we got underway, The bus driver seemed to be driving slower than normal, but I figured that was just because we were still in the city. Eventually we passed the last checkpoint. About a kilometer or so later the driver pulled the bus to the side of the road and waited. After a few minutes we were told we had to change to another bus. Why? This bus was running fine. When I boarded the other bus, I found out why.

We had been hijacked! Or more correctly, we had been sold, to a "tour bus" company! When we all got on the new bus, someone up front stood up and started yammering about something. I figured it out when all the heads on the bus turned to the left at once. This guy was playing the nice tour guide. Crap, I thought, this can't end well.

We tooled along and the "guide" pointed out things every now and then. Then he got up, said something, and the bus started to turn left. Here it comes, I thought. But then my spirits were buoyed. Another passenger on the bus stood up and shouted something about this not being the way to the Shaolin temple. Apparently this has happened before, because the driver stopped, right in the middle of the intersection, backed up, and then continued on the road to the temple. Yeah!

All seemed well. The "guide" didn't say another thing until the Shaolin temple was in sight. There it was. We were here. There it goes ... Wait a minute. Why did we pass the temple entrance? The guide said something and most of the passengers revolted. Yelling and shouting ensued. Apparently we were going somewhere else first and then would come back to the temple. The majority of the passengers would have none of that. They stood up and grabbed their bags and demanded to be let off the bus. I hurried and got off also.

I am glad that most of the other passengers stood up for themselves and demanded to be given the service they had paid for. But at the same time appalled at the fact that the actual certified bus driver (he had a picture badge and everything) sold all his passengers to the tour company. But, such is life traveling in the "rest" of the world

I wonder how much I was worth.



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