The Woman on the Bus

There are characters everywhere, you just have to look for them. Usually. This time, she sat right next to me on the bus to Christchurch.

“May I sit here, dahling, this bus is full!” a smily woman with a bad red dye job said, as I sat up from my resting position and moved into the window seat.

“Mmhm,” I replied, disappointed that I’d have to share. At least I’d gotten an hour’s nap already (much needed, since I’d woken up at 6 to catch the bus).

The woman smelled strongly of perfume. It may have been nice if it hadn’t been so heavy, it was hard to tell. She was probably in her forties, dressed casually and carrying a handbag. She sat down (and mind you, she was not by any means fat, but a little bit wide. Or maybe the seats were just too narrow.) and took out a magazine. She flipped through her magazine and then put it back in her handbag. She took out another book, The Lord of the Flies. Ok, so she has decent taste.

A bit down the road, we stopped for a 30 minute break to pick up more people and do whatever. I wandered around the town and found myself in a bookstore. Mistake. I rarely walk into a bookstore without buying a book, and I simply cannot fit more books in my shelves, let alone in my suitcase to carry home. But there was a sale in honor of the Queen’s Birthday (Happy birthday, Queen!), and showcased was a book I’ve had on my list for some time: Mud, Sweat, and Tears, by Bear Grylls. So I bought it.

Back on the bus, I started reading. I don’t care that this book is a number 1 bestseller. I’m about 60 pages in now, but I can already tell, Bear should stick to what he does best: stupid, idiotic, adventurous things that might one day kill him. It reads a bit like a child’s diary. I guess I’ll give it some time, though, since I did buy the thing and it’s 400 pages long. Maybe once he gets past the family stuff and gushy memories, it’ll be more exciting and I won’t mind the amateurish writing.

Anyway, I got bored and put the book down– naptime. I zoned out, but not long into the nap, I was awoken. “I think we just blew a tire,” said the driver as he pulled over. Great.

We drove slowly into the next town and waited for a guy from the tire company to come. The woman next to me missed not a beat: “I’m going shopping. I already have about 12 bags, but you can never have enough bags.” She and a posse of women marched across the street and I felt relief as the air cleared of her perfume.

Fifteen minutes later, she was back. “Buy anything?” asked a woman in the bus.

“No they were all too girly, had flowers on ’em.” I hadn’t noticed her nose ring before, a hoop around one or her nostrils.

Finally the tire guy came. But he had no tire with him.

“What, so he came to confirm that we do have a blown tire?” The woman asked gleefully. “What kind of a tire man is this? I hope we’re getting our money back, David,” she said to the driver. Apparently his name was David.

David said nothing and started the bus. We drove down the road to a mechanic. I don’t know why we didn’t just go there in the first place.

“Can you all get out of the bus while we change the tire?” asked David. “It’s too heavy with you in it.”

“Oh, now I really hope we get our money back,” said the woman. “He just insulted us!”

We exited the vehicle and waited for the guys to change the tire. Meanwhile, another woman was getting antsy. She had a flight to catch in Christchurch, and the time was running dangerously thin.

Nearly everyone who had been on the bus took out cigarettes and started smoking. I guess they were all pretty stressed. And me? I was loving it. I had nowhere to be, no immediate plans, and, well, these passengers were a riot.

The perfumed woman jumped from person to person, striking impassioned conversations about how the poor flight woman was going to miss her flight and oh look, she’s going to hitchhike, we can’t let her do that! The flight woman finally decided not to hitchhike, with the urging of the perfumed woman. “We saved your life,” Perfume claimed. And then the tire guys put the tire on the bus. As it made some noise, Perfume starting singing Under Pressure. You can’t make this stuff up.

We got back on the bus and had an hour yet to go before reaching our destination.

“Hurry up, David!” Perfume cried. “She’s going to miss her flight! Foot on the peddle, drive faster, boy, faster!”

To be honest, I felt bad for David. Sure, he was shockingly cavalier about running late the whole time, but he handled a mob of stressed backseat driving women phenomenally well.

When I tired of hearing Perfume’s voice, I took out my iPod and zoned out. Perfume went back to her book. But every once in a while, a sound escaped her lips: “faster!”

We finally got to the airport. It was my destination too, since the marathon is held down the road, and I needed to register.

“Goodbye, dear!” said Perfume. “Be careful, now!” she said, as I exited the bus.

What she thought was going to put me in danger, I do not know.

Anyway, I lugged my bags to registration, a fair distance down the road, and picked up my race pack. Then I walked back to the airport and found a taxi to take me to my hostel. I spent nearly $40 on taxi fares, entirely unfortunate, since it was only about 8km away from the airport. I’m not pleased. But I’m here now, alone in a room with 4 more empty bunk beds, and I’m bored. It smells funky, so I left the sliding door ajar. It’s getting dark, and it’s not even 5:30 yet. I guess I’ll have an early night, as I have an early morning. But I need to find out how to hire a taxi for the morning. The previous taxi driver gave me the name of a company unaffiliated with the airport and therefore much cheaper. Thank god.

Til then, I have to decide what to do. I may run across the street for a mediocre ice cream. That’s sounding good to me right now. I also have to figure out what I’m going to do with my bags during the race tomorrow, as I have to check out of here by 10am, and the race starts at 9. Stressing a little bit. But at least it’s almost over. I can’t wait ’til I’m done and back in Dunedin.

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