- 1 - Fat Man on a Little Bus
- 2 - Keeping Las Vegas Safe From Litterers and Al Qaeda
- 3 - Why was Pedro in Beijing and Why Was He Naked?
I started this series on annoying tourists a while back, figuring I would pull from my virtually endless supply of material and add to it from time to time. It’s been a while since the first post, so I’ve decided to add a second and write about a Chinese guy I got stuck next to on the 22 hour bus ride from Lanzhou to Dunhuang in China‘s Gansu Province.
I’ve also decided to rename the series “annoying people”, since I don’t want to seem like I have a problem with tourists specifically, when I actually just dislike a lot people in general. This also gives me the luxury of never again struggling to find a topic for a post. If I ever find myself without an idea, I can just head down to the nearest Wal Mart and the posts will practically write themselves.
Anyway, back to the bus. Spending a full day on one was never going to be fun, but a sleeper berth would make it bearable. Not only can you sleep, but you also have the aisle between yourself and the nearest passenger. Despite being a very narrow gap, it makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a sleeper ticket on short notice.
Instead, I got to spend 22 hours on a regular Chinese bus. And not the fairly nice buses that drive around along the eastern coast or other more popular areas, but a bus that used to run those routes 20 years ago, before being demoted to China’s desert northwest.
Of course the woman selling me the ticket assured me the seats were actually far more comfortable than the tiny bunks in a sleeper bus, but we both knew those same tiny bunks would suddenly become the deepest and most comfortable sleep of my life, were she trying to sell me a sleeper ticket. Since none were available, however, sleeper buses were death traps and a bus built by a math teacher or something during the Cultural Revolution suddenly became the height of modernity.
Since I really wanted to leave Lanzhou, because………it’s Lanzhou (this place will undoubtedly become the subject of a future post), I had no choice and bought the ticket. I boarded the bus the next morning, sat down in my tiny seat and leaned back, preparing for a long, uncomfortable ride.
And then I leaned back some more, because my seat back was broken. Granted, that’s not too big of a problem when the seat only reclines a few centimeters to begin with—nowhere near enough to sleep, but just enough to be annoying—but I would have liked to choose when and how far to lean back like everyone else on the bus. Well, maybe not everyone else, but a good 70% of my fellow passengers seemed to have functioning seats.
So I reclined and watched the other passengers load their luggage under the bus. They were all Chinese and most of them were tourists. Dunhuang is very popular with domestic tourists, so that wasn’t surprising. One guy stood out. He was about three times the size of everyone else and I knew immediately he would be sitting next to me, because that’s just how life works.
Sure enough, after smacking every aisle-seat passenger in the face with his love handles as he waddled his way toward me, he plopped himself down in his seat. Well, half of himself. A quarter of him was drooping into the aisle and the remaining quarter landed in my lap. He turned to look at me and I knew immediately he was a talker.
We all know it’s a general rule that the people who talk the most have the least to say and only the most boring and annoying people spend a lot of time talking to others on a bus; and this guy was no exception. Now some of you might be thinking, “But I talk to people on the bus all the time….” Well, think about what you just said and what I just wrote and add 1 and 1 together. If you’re getting 2, then you’ve just discovered something about yourself and in the future you’ll hopefully STOP TALKING TO ME ON THE BUS!! If you’re not getting 2, you’re an idiot and you’re going to keep annoying anyone unfortunate enough to be seated next to you.
Luckily, this talker (I forgot his name the second he told me, so let’s just call him Chin since he had several) didn’t speak any English and while I know enough Chinese to get by, I don’t know enough to have more than a ten minute conversation, so I didn’t even have to pretend not to understand him. Unluckily, he didn’t seem to care if I could understand or not. I bet if I weren’t there, he would have been perfectly happy talking to the empty seat. Or more accurately, talking to his love handle and half an empty seat.
Chin also had an annoying obsession with my iPod touch. He kept poking the screen as I was reading and trying to take my headphones to see what I was listening to and asking about all the features. Over and over again he asked and every time he finished it off by confirming that it couldn’t make calls.
He had some kind of phone that was apparently expensive and impressive to anyone who cares about such things. I can’t think of a single thing I care less about and I was making that pretty clear, but Chin still felt the need to constantly point out, “But it doesn’t make any calls, huh? See, mine makes calls…” and “What’s the use, if it doesn’t make calls?” and so on.
I guess when you’re the type of person who never stops talking, the ability to make calls is vital for all those times you find yourself without another person, animal or inanimate object in the immediate vicinity to bore with your conversation.
I suffered through the day with Chin talking next to me and while I missed a lot of it due to the headphones in my ear, I could still see his mouth moving which was annoying enough. I was hoping he’d fall asleep once it got dark, giving me a chance to get some sleep as well. Half of that happened.
Chin had no trouble falling asleep and, of course, snored like an asthmatic bear with emphysema. I didn’t so much hear it through my headphones as I felt the vibrations. It turned out not to matter though, as the bus driver apparently though that, since we were not on a sleeper bus, no one would actually want to sleep. Not only did he leave the cabin lights on all night, but he played one Chinese Kung Fu DVD after another and he did so at maximum volume, in case passengers in other cars several lanes over would like to follow along with the plot.
Of course there was no actual plot. If you’ve ever seen a Chinese Kung Fu movie you’ve seen the 1% of these (usually from Hong Kong) deemed good enough for an international audience and you know they’re horrible. The other 99% are so much worse and never leave the country. When you’re trying to sleep and are listening to one of these movies with your eyes closed, it’s basically a ninety minute stretch of incredibly bad, exaggerated and repetitive fight-sound-effects interrupted occasionally by some acting that makes Keanu Reeves look like a multiple Oscar winner.
I got no sleep and in the morning I got to hear about my idiotic purchase of an electronic device that does not make phone calls for a few more hours until we finally reached Dunhuang. As we were getting off the bus, Chin actually suggested we get together later in the day and join a tour to the Mogao Caves that Dunhuang is famous for. I told him to call me on my iPod.