I’d like to start by saying: I believe what makes a good storyteller is the ability to open up and be completely honest with your audience. Now, you can either click play on the video above or if you’re more of a reader, continue reading…
I decided to take a public bus for the first time during my travels in India. A four hour journey from Kayamkulam to Ernakulam in the state of Kerala may not seem like that much of an experience, but let me remind you, this is India!
After walking through knee high puddles (compliments of monsoon season), filled with garbage, piss, and fish (how they got there, I don’t know), I arrive at the bus station. A lady also waiting to go to Ernakulam, kindly informs me that there may be a “few” cockroaches living on the bus. “A few I can deal with,” I tell her. She also informs me that there is no toilet on the bus. “But the driver will stop along the way right?” I ask. “No,” she replies. This is not the ideal situation for someone who has to urinate every twenty minutes. As soon as I find a seat in the middle of the bus, I am greeted by ten to fifteen baby cockroaches. Yum. I sit down and the bus driver pulls away. The inevitable of course happens next. I need to use the washroom.
This bus ride just turned into the longest and most grueling ride of my life. Did I mention that the massive pot holes in the road lift you from your seat continuously. This did not help with my bladder situation. A couple minutes into the ride, the bus driver’s assistant comes over and asks me to pay 100 rupees for the journey. “One hundred rupees,” I ask him. “I was told it was only sixty-six rupees. I guess the other thirty-six rupees is skin tax,” I say. The assistant chuckles and drops the price down to eighty rupees. Then he asks me to move to the front of the bus. The very very front. I looked around and see there are only three other people on the bus. “Do I really need to move?” I ask. “Yes! Woman in the front,” he replies. So, with the bus skipping along the road and my two bags in hand, I manage to make it to the very front of the bus. As soon as I sit down, a massive tree branch reaches in the window and wacks me across the head. This is just the first ten minutes of the bus ride.
About two and a half hours into the ride, my bladder is holding three liters of liquid (at least that’s how it feels). So what does a VERY desperate girl do in such a situation? Finds the most absorbent item in her bag to shove in her pants so she can relieve herself. A sock. Now, I realize that at this point in the story, I may lose a few readers. This is completely understandable, but please remember, I am desperate at this point and a good writer should be honest right? So, I take a clean sock from my bag and stick it in my pants and … don’t go. My parents toilet trained me well. My body won’t let me “go” because it knows I’m not in the proper setting to relieve myself. C’mon, a sock? But, desperate times call for desperate measures. At this point I am feeling beyond desperate, but my body knows better, and I just can’t go. To make matters worse, the bus stops at a station and one hundred people get on. Now, the seat I am sitting in could fit another two people comfortably, but six more people? Ugh!
Three more hours go by and I can’t take it anymore. I am about to get off on the side of the road, in the middle of who knows where but probably where no foreigner has gone before, when the bus pulls into a main city station. People are grabbing at me through the window to sell me snacks and random toys. One man in particular did not stop hounding me to buy a wooden flute. “I don’t want a flute,” I tell him. “I want a toilet!” I turn to the bus driver and ask, “How long will you be stopping for Mr. Bus Driver?” He looks at me as if I’m an alien. Luckily the kind lady I met at the beginning of the journey translates my question for the bus driver. “The bus will leave in one minute,” the lady tells me. I grab my more “important” bag of the two, and I jump out of the bus door. “Toilet, toilet!” I yell to whoever looks my way. “TOILET! WHERE IS THE TOILET! ANYONE?” Finally, the annoying flute vendor points in the direction of the toilets which is one hundred meters away. I make a mad dash for it. When I finally make it to the toilets there is a man in front of the stalls telling to pay two rupees. CRAP! I remember that I only have larger bills on me, which is unacceptable pretty much anywhere in India. Then I remember I shoved two rupees in my pocket before I left. Luck is finally on my side. I hand the man the two rupees and run to the toilet stall. First stall, locked. Second stall, locked. Third … forth … fifth … sixth stall, locked! Finally, the last stall is open! I drop my bag on the washroom floor (gross, i know, but remember I am strapped for time and my life for the next year is in my bag on the bus), pull down my pants, and … reeeelease! This is what I call complete satisfaction. I finish and quickly pull up my pants. I look back in the stall and realize I forgot the sock in my pants and it was now in the toilet. I guess this particular sock was destined for a different life purpose. I laugh and quickly dash across the station towards the bus. I only have five second left until the bus leaves. The bus rings it’s bell, which means that it is just about to leave, when I realize the bag I’m carrying is open. I turn around and quickly zip it up. I run so fast that I could have definitely come first place in a marathon, when I finally reach the bus as its just pulling away. I quickly jump through the door when I hear, “Miss, Miss!” I turn around and see the flute vendor chasing after me with my scarf in his hand. He quickly throws it to me through the bus window. “Thank you!” I yell. I collapse in my seat with a big sigh of relief. This has definitely been quite the journey.
So, what is the lesson learned from this experience?
1) Never underestimate someone’s generosity.
2) If you’re thinking of taking a public bus in India, make sure you bring some Depends.