February 13, 2008

Last Week: Homage to the Mini-Bus

Sitting in the stinking, hot mini-bus waiting for it to fill, it becomes clear that there is some sort of mechanical problem. It won't start. Customers continue to file in while Driver and Conductor look nervously at each other not knowing what to do.

Make it to destination with maximum passengers for minimum cost. Don't let Rival Bus poach your customers, even if that means insanely irresponsible street racing.

After one savvy customer catches on and switches to Rival Bus, Conductor shuts the sliding door and stands guard to prevent a complete mutiny. Meanwhile, Driver is foraging in the ditch for thrown-away cardboard and plastic bags. He disappears beneath the undercarriage to apply the refuse to a mystery bus part. Rival Bus leaves the stop.

Somehow the rubbish has fixed the bus. With a running push start from the conductor, the Toyota Hiace shakes to a start and we're down the road to catch up to Rival Bus. A few minutes later we spot it, erroneously trolling up a side road to mine for customers. Speed bumps and elementary school be damned, Driver guns it past Rival. At scheduled stops, Conductor shouts "Fast! Fast!" to drop customers without completely stopping. The advantage must be maintained.

Our stop approaches with Rival hot on our tail, lights flashing and threatening to pass. Another bus is oncoming with frightening imminence. As soon as we slow, Rival swings out and floors it. Disembarking, horns blare as the two buses careen toward each other, with Rival just tucking back in to avoid a surely fatal head-on collision. Conductor, watching intently, chortles. Rival has won this round. "Ze komo kwam bili! (thank you very much!)" I shout back as the bus roars back into battle, strangely sad that it will be my last ride.

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