Friday, September 10, 2010

The dividing line - Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok-Pahonyothin Rd. traffic on a rainy night, by Fabio
I’m on a bus, standing, holding a pole with my hand. I’m the only foreign passenger on board, as usual on this line. I used to feel vaguely embarrassed about it. I was aware of the looks of the Thais, I could almost read their thoughts: “What is this farang doing here? Why doesn’t he take a taxi, or drive, or live downtown?” Although it’s true that this is what people here often think of foreigners, a slight breeze of paranoia was definitely blowing on my thoughts, making me feel that almost everybody was looking at me when it was not like that at all. Most of the passengers in fact were just dozing off after a long day at work, or chatting, reading, listening to music. Anyway with time my sensors have developed some sort of filter for this kind of sensations and I don’t notice all that anymore.
The bus is stuck in the third lane of a traffic light jam. My stop is just past the junction but I know myself well: I will start to daydream and I’ll be carried away by a chain of thoughts, numerous, rusty and battered like its links, and I will forget to get off. I approach the door and press the stop button in advance. The conductor looks at me and so do other people nearby, and this time I’m sure that I haven’t just imagined it. Oh, maybe…no, it can’t be…then the driver presses a button and the door opens. A devilish, unexpected example of the principle of cause-effect: I pressed the button and he opened the door. Just like that, just for me. It’s exactly what I was afraid of, even though my mind hadn’t had the time to develop a clear picture of it. Normally one rings the bell to request the next stop, not to have the doors opened right away. By the way, it’s written everywhere that buses can only pick up and drop off passengers at the official stops. This is a junction, trafficked and dangerous. But I pressed the button and the driver opened the damned door. I wait a moment, maybe someone gets off, erasing me from the picture like a little man in an unfinished cartoon. Unsurprisingly nobody moves. What do I do now? I’m going to get off, better than remaining on board, putting up a silly smile to let them know I was not aiming that high and make a fool of myself. A little jump, like that, look out for the motorbikes and that’s it, I’m already on the sidewalk, camouflaged with a discreet veil of purpose and determination, as if to say: “That’s exactly what I wanted to do!”
Now the Thais will be thinking: “Hey, look at that farang, how easy, he seems to be so used to the various details of the local customs!” Like this or with their own words, let them think what they want. They can't even suspect what the shameful truth is.
Well, who would have thought, sometimes the dividing line between fool and cool can be very thin!


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

yeah the bus drivers don't do this very often anymore but I know how you felt I was exactly in the same situation before and then yeah,get off the bus and end up walking even a bit more but it's still better then get the looks from the other passengers ;), oh oh old funny Bangkok.

Fabio said...

Absolutely. Old funny Bangkok is always there to entertain you...just need to give it a chance!