Riding in comfort
For one senior citizen, trading his trusty bike for public transportation has been welcomed with open arms.
IWAS riding my kapcai (motorcycle below 100cc) after packing my supper ( char koay teow and ais kacang) and couldn’t wait to get home. Suddenly, a car zoomed past and grazed my kapcai’s handlebar. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the roadside. Apart from my supper strewn all over the place, I was still in one piece. The mishap drove home a message: perhaps, I’m getting too old to ride a motorcycle. Well, I can always walk a short distance to buy supper, but what if I had to go further? I don’t like driving either. Then, I had an idea. I should just take the bus! Of course I have heard about the convenience of public transport since Rapid Penang took over the public transportation service in 2007. These buses are new, larger and air-conditioned and hence, spacious and comfortable. The bus schedules are organised with good frequency so that passengers don’t have to wait too long for the next bus.
So, that was how my journey with buses began. On my very first trip, I was disoriented, like a new kid on the block. I had to ask people which bus to take to head downtown. The first lesson I learned was to ready small notes and coins, as we need to put in the exact fare into the metal box (beside the driver). My fare was RM2 but the smallest note I had on that maiden outing was RM5.
Well, since the bus was in motion, and to avoid embarrassment, I put in RM5, fully aware that I was kissing my change goodbye. I was cursing myself (there goes my lunch) but the cool air from the air-conditioning system made me forget my “loss” and I slowly, but surely, began to enjoy myself.
The bus was half full and it was mid-day. Traffic wasn’t too bad and in less than 20 minutes, the bus reached downtown (Komtar). The ride home was a bit longer as it was after office hours and the bus made many stops along the way. All in all, I really enjoyed my first bus ride as a senior after many years of riding my bike. I don’t have to get stressed weaving through traffic jams or looking for parking.
Since that day, I started taking the public bus to go everywhere in Penang. Now, I’m a seasoned commuter. In fact, I even bought myself a monthly Warga Mas season ticket. This allows me to take any bus to go anywhere, but with limitless rides.
While on the bus, I like to watch the world go by and observe the goings-on. You’d be amazed at the kinds of things that happen. Firstly, forget about queuing. It is about the survival of the fittest. You should see how a frail old lady elbows to be the first into the bus. She puts a sumo wrestler to shame.
If you think you’re a “warga mas” and expect a student or younger person to give his/her seat for you, dream on. It would be almost like striking the lottery if that happens.
Some passengers (usually ladies) would talk at the top of their voices and want the whole world to hear their gossip. They think other passengers don’t exist.
Just when you think you can catch forty winks, the irritating ringtone of someone’s handphone jerks you back to reality. Then, there are those who talk on their handphones as if they were in a shouting match in parliament.
You have to have a strong nose as a commuter, too. Imagine having to put up with the stinky cheap perfume of a heavily made up woman sitting next to you. Or, what if the air suddenly turned foul and you trace the source to a burly man with sweaty armpits standing beside you?
Some inconsiderate passengers never prepare the required fare and only dig into their wallets/handbag to look for money at the last moment, thus obstructing others who are boarding. I salute the bus drivers for being so patient.
Some passengers ring the bell even when their stop is a couple hundred metres away. If this is not irritating enough, they would press the bell repeatedly until the driver shouts Oi, satu kali cukup lah, saya tahu stoplah (Hey, one ring is enough, I know when to stop). Well, don’t blame the frustrated driver if he overshoots your stop and makes you walk.
In a crowded bus, some concerned drivers would remind you aloud of pickpockets. Ladies, be aware of lusty fellows. Also, watch out for heavy shopping bags that may hit you.
Sometimes, you need to arm yourself with medicated oil for a potential headache or fainting spell.
On a good day, the bus driver would return your Selamat pagi, coax passengers to move further in to make way for more passengers or, get down to help a passenger on a wheelchair up the bus.
On a bad day, you may run to catch the bus but the driver still drives off, leaving you to inhale the smoke and looking very silly.
Or if you ask the driver where the bus is going, he just looks at you with daggers in his eyes, instead of being helpful.
I have made some friends during my bus rides and when we meet again in the same bus, it’s like meeting long-lost friends. But do beware of the over-friendly types.
For orang lama (a more polite term than orang tua) like me (and I’m no Andy Lau either ), if a young lady passenger says I don’t look my age and that I remind her of her first love, I’m on my guard. Something is not right and I know I may be taken for a ride (instead of a ride home).
And once, after I reached home from my bus journey and hollered: “Dear, I’m home. Sorry, a bit late. Heavy traffic- lah,” my other half asked: “Did you get the chicken?” And then it hit me: Oh my God, I left it on the bus.
Survival of the fittest: you should see how a frail old lady elbows to be the first into the bus. She puts a sumo wrestler to shame.