As a regular bus rider who despite moving next door to an MRT stop is already mapping out the bus routes for her favorite stomping grounds from her new apartment (I can take the 220 to Tianmu instead of the 285 which I can take almost right from my current apartment and goes right by my job…talk about convenience), I love the bus system. Almost more, dare I say it, than the MRT. And more often than not, I hate it. It’s pretty convenient yet frustrating at times. There’s something about the challenge of the bus system. I never rode a bus until Typhoon Nari wiped out most of the MRT last fall and after getting punched in the eye by a wandering elbow I swore I’d never step foot on one again, but I did and continue to.
I have gone from that wet-behind-the-ears newbie whose Mandarin-speaking roommate walked her to the bus stop her first day of taking the bus to work and gave the instructor directions on where to drop me off like a little kid on her first day of school to a full-out bus surfer babe. I am working on completing a whole journey without touching any surfaces with my hands. So far I might grab the ceiling or touch a pole with the heel of my hand if we are going around curves fast or making sudden stops. I think I have just as many if not more memorable moments on the busses here as I do the MRT. One of my favorites (aside from getting a bruised eye from the flying elbow) is when I was looking at my current apartment (until 3/15, baby!) and got on a 282 in the wrong direction. When I tried to say the name of the stop that I wanted, the driver stopped the bus in the middle of He Ping E. Rd and told me to get out. I looked out the door at the oncoming traffic and tried to ask the driver if I could get off at a stop. He growled and pointed out the door. So I had to dash across a major road and hope that I didn’t wind up decorating someone’s windshield with my body. Ironically, my mother had the same problem when she attempted to take the 282 to a site during her visit back in May. Must have been the same driver. I know there was one 282 driver who used to wear a fishing cap and a neck brace that was just pure evil, never even honked to or responded to honking from a fellow 282 driver, drove like a bat out of hell, and regularly passed stops even if there was a group of elderly nuns waving to him frantically. Another 282 driver decided to cut some car off and slam his brakes on which sent my shoulder crashing into a pole and caused me to pull that muscle just because the car made him spill his cup of betel nut juice. We had to walk over the nasty, foul-smelling red puddle to get off the bus…and it was when they had just changed the busses so it was a brand-new one. And don’t get me started on the roaches I have seen on some of them including at least 10 baby roaches that suddenly appeared along my window and on the floor under my seat on a BR6 one night.
When I see R19 busses, I hear “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan in my head except it becomes “Red 19”. When Typhoon Nari took out the MRT, the busses were ridiculously full…to the point that they would lean to the right from all of the people crowded onto the steps from both the front and rear doors because there was no where else to stand and the drivers would pass stops because there was no room to pick anyone else up (this was the 905, 906, and 909 in Hsintien which go all the way out to Songshan, and they had filled up before even crossing Bitan!). You know how the MRT trains get crowded at rush hour so that people step off to let people get out? That’s what they did on the busses too at that time. I spent many morning commutes that fall getting a perfect view of the road ahead from the bottom step of the front doors…if I got picked up that day.
Rascal, maybe I live in a fortunate part of town, but I have ridden on the brand-new 282, 292, 235, 15, 285, 18, 74, BR3, BR6, and the 902 vans (one of the roach-inhabited lines along with the Taishan which is still very disgusting). Then there are those busses who used to have holes in the floor patched up with dirty rags and rotting wood. I have been on a Taishan line bus that had a hole in the floor…I bet if we slowed down enough, I could have seen the trail of oil leaking from a broken oil pan. I like to count the 900 lines: I have been on a 901, 902, 905, 906, and 909. I have seen a 904 and a 907 or 908 (I forget). Anyone know how the numbers work out. I haven’t quite gotten around to buying a bus map.
I like how I currently can walk out my door and get on a bus to either Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and Taipei Main Station (15) or Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall and Mucha Zoo (282) or Shihlin b[/b] Night Market (902) or Tonghua Street Night Market (282). I’ll miss that when I move into town…or at least until I can figure out where the busses in my new neighborhood go.
Another favorite bus moment was getting onto an 18 which very much resembled a Bluebird school bus in the US back in the mid- to late 80’s/early 90’s when I was in elementary school from the inside except instead of green seats it had pink seats and everyone was sitting in them like calm adult-sized children, two to a seat. The driver was calling out stops by microphone. I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone. Then someone hit the signal to get off…
and it played “It’s a Small World”.