Oh my goodness, I think I may end up on one of those crazy 10 most … lists that zoom round FB and social media and are unhealthily described as having “gone viral”.
I actually sent a text message to the mama at the charity school where I am now working, OK volunteering but it is still working, that said I was running late because my bus kept going backwards! But it was true, I swear.
When I look on Google and see the following courtesy of Careerbuilder.com
• A zebra running on the highway was holding up traffic (turned out to be true).
• An employee woke up on a front lawn two blocks from his home.
• Dog ate my homework was not an excuse, but cat stuck in the toilet was.
• An employee accidentally put glue in her eye instead of contact lens solution.
• A hole in the roof allowed rain to fall on the alarm clock, making it malfunction.
• Worker thought Halloween was a paid holiday.
I really have to say mine should be up there with them!
I love life in Tanzania, a simple bus ride can always give me reason to smile and it is always an event.
Many of my mzungu friends don’t share my sense of humour over these rides. Many find the prospect of playing sardines in a moving vehicle with upwards of 25 to 30 locals plus livestock a less than pleasant experience but I like to face life with a positive outlook and see the best in all situations.
Wednesday morning I left for work in plenty of time and waved down the dala dala (bus of sorts) for the first leg of my journey. The dala dala was empty, which is not a good sign as these mini bus type vehicles do not run to a timetable or schedule but rather on a “when full we go basis”. The driver and his catcher (usually a young man/boy whose job it is to hustle passengers on board and spot potential clients down side streets) courteously extended me the privilege of sitting up front with the driver. This affords me business class status and leg room to match. Up front I will definitely not have anyone’s rear end in my face and so I am always grateful on the rare occasion when this pole position has been proffered.
We proceeded along the road and as we approached the next pick up point (crossroads) I saw another dala dala already collecting passengers. My driver put his foot down and careened round the opposition and raced to the next pick up point. As we screeched to a halt and the catcher leapt from the still moving vehicle to round-up the waiting mamas like cattle the previous dala dala screamed in front of us and stopped crossways blocking our path. A battle ensued with the catchers from both buses screaming loudly and physically man handling the waiting passengers.
When I noticed the mamas were all getting on the first bus I figured I had chosen a queue jumper for my morning’s entertainment, hey ho I had the front seat.
Going backwards episode one involved a screeching reverse to again career around the first and probably rightful bus and race again to the next crossroads where my driver hoped to chance his luck with more success. You probably have the picture and can guess that the first bus repeated its manoeuvre of earlier, except that now a third bus arrived as well as the original one. Now things were really were hotting up and it was clear everyone thought my driver was in the wrong.
Suddenly my door was wrenched open and my arm grabbed by the catcher from one of the other buses. Whilst this manhandling of passengers is the norm, I know I have witnessed it often, it is not something that is usually extended to mzungus and I was somewhat offended. With a crowd around the door all shouting and screaming and my arm being pulled, first out and then pushed back in, a few times I decided enough was enough and summoned my very best pigeon Kiswahili and announced.
“STOP SHOUTING!” Working in a classroom environment you get to learn the commands quickly and this phrase is one of my more confident ones. It had the desired effect. There was a stunned silence and all eyes were on me.
“Right now this bus is my bus.” I explained to the collective ensemble. They dispersed muttering and my driver proceeded to smother me with verbal courtesy and respect whilst his catcher brushed down my arm and almost bowed in gratitude.
I seemed to have settled the dispute, but to my amusement my driver reversed onto the road and proceeded to return to the original point of pick up in reverse. My outburst seemed to have had the effect of his deciding that he was in the wrong and should go wait his rightful turn!
The entire heart stopping, backward journey, against the traffic and at usual forward motion speed was conducted with a litany of expressions of gratitude to me.
Perhaps I should point out that the fare per person for any such bus ride is 400 Tanzanian Shillings, £0.14p €0.17c or $0.24c.
So you see how I came to genuinely send the best, number one, late for work excuse text to the mama at the school, and yes I was late.
Have a wonderful week my friends and beware buses travelling backwards.