Rid­ing in com­fort

For one se­nior cit­i­zen, trad­ing his trusty bike for pub­lic trans­porta­tion has been wel­comed with open arms.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - By TIGER TEH

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.

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