Twenty-years-old and on my own in a foreign country, I quickly observed these 10 steps to using the public transportation system there! This is a humorous look at the practicalities of living in a culture outside of one’s own.
1.) Don’t stand at the bus stop, but out in the street in front of it in a great crowd of people.
2.) Try to be near the front of the crowd, but resist being trampled by them…
3.) When the bus comes, crowd in close to the door so that the people getting off have to fight for their right to leave the bus. This is vital.
4.) Take a deep breath and plunge in, but don’t expect to find a seat– you’ll be less disappointed if you plan to stand all along.
5.) Go right on up the aisle as close to the strangers next to you as is bodily possible. You can either choose to put yourself that close to them, or the people coming in behind you will shove you in that close, so you might as well uphold your own dignity.
6.) Forget all distant dreams of personal space and squish in CLOSER. The doors must close, after all.
7.) Don’t worry about having a pole to hold on to. The pressure of all the bodies on the bus being squashed together is sure to keep you on your feet as the bus swerves and careens through the crazy traffic down the city streets. And don’t be offended if various parts of your body are touched rather rudely by random strangers. They aren’t doing it on purpose.
8.) Do not attempt to take a deep breath. I repeat, DO NOT attempt to take a deep breath. It will not be pleasant should you succeed. Oh, and don’t look up or you’ll land your face directly into the armpit of the man holding onto the pole beside you. You have been warned.
9.) As the bus approaches your stop, start pushing and jabbing your elbows into people as required to worm your way through the tightly packed space so you end up somewhere near the door. Don’t forget to throw in a few, “scuzati ma!”‘s for good measure.
10.) Check to be sure all your personal belongings are intact as you jump out quickly, avoiding any oncoming traffic and a head-on collision with the next round of people attempting to stockpile onto the bus!
Fight the urge to close your eyes and wish for it all to be over. Remember that you are privileged to have the experience of a foreign culture and attempt to take as much of it in each moment as you can hold! And remember to smile; it improves quality of life…