Bad Bus Ride - Glenn Macdonald


My girlfriend and I were trying to get from Guangzhou to Guilin during the October holiday a couple of years back.
We had delayed buying our train tickets; partly because we weren’t sure about what day we wanted to travel, and partly because we’re idiots.
So, not surprisingly, we were without tickets at the crucial train getting-on time, and we were hours away from our home.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so we went to the long distance bus station, where approximately everybody in the world was trying to travel to deepest, darkest China.
We got a ticket on one of those sleeper buses, and, being new to the hell that is Chinese travel, we considered ourselves lucky.

We boarded the bus, and made straight for the back seat, or back bed really, which looked to be the biggest, and therefore best, bunk on the bus. We couldn’t really figure why no one had staked their claim already. We climbed up onto our bunk, and snuggled up nice and romantic-like and readied ourselves for the long journey to Guilin. The bus was scheduled to depart at 9 a.m. and the time was 8:57 a.m., so we felt comfortable in our spacious bunk.

And then “the family” got on the bus.

I’ve never seen anything like it... Grandpa, Grandma, Ma, Pa, Oldest son, daughter, and next son all climb aboard this bus that is already packed to the gills save for our wide bunk at the back of the bus. They wasted no time...they came straight to where we were, and climbed into our bed like they owned the place...which they eventually did. They laid out all their belongings and took over the greater 95% of the space in what should have been me and my lady’s little traveling love nest.

But we’re easy-going folks. So we welcome them aboard and begin our journey. It’s no big problem... “We can soak up some local culture on the trip,” is the lie we tell ourselves to make this intrusion seem okay.

Grandma tried to start up conversation. She saw I wasn’t catching what she was saying, so shouting right up close in my face became her preferred method of communication. It was alright, but I found myself searching for the Chinese words to say “Just because you see a dead skunk on the road, doesn’t mean you have to eat it.”

Then the youngest son begins farting. I’m not talking a little “phht” here and there...this kid was ripping them off loud and proud, and by the smell, with a little more substance than you’d hope for. I tried opening the window, but couldn’t crack it any more than half an inch, so I was stuck wallowing in the stink of shouting Grandma and flatulent grandson, painfully aware that I’ve got near 10 hours left in my trip.

Time passed, and neither one of them let up for more than a minute or two at a time. As we entered hour 4 of our journey, I saw other grandson was looking a little uncomfortable. He was shifting in his very limited space; tossing and turning, and moaning every now and then. No one seemed to notice except for me, ‘cause I had a sinking feeling that I knew exactly what’s wrong with this kid to my immediate left.

This kid opened his mouth, as though he was about to impart some great wisdom on me, and...and he didn’t. He sure did impart something on flew. This kid was like a fire hose. I sat, stunned for what seemed like forever, but couldn’t have been more than half a second or so as this kid re-evaluated his lunch by spreading it all over my shirt and jeans. I needed to get out of the way...but there was nowhere to go. I was pinned in on all sides on this crowded bus to hell, so all I could do was sit, turn my head away as best I could, and hope this kid had a light lunch.

Eventually the trauma ended, leaving me shell-shocked while the kid looked suspiciously satisfied with himself. I looked down at the mess the kid had made of my clothes (and my dignity) and turned to my girlfriend for help. She cringed away from me like I was a leper, and said she couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) help me, since she was a very sensitive sympathetic puker. I turned to the family in search of a kleenex or...or anything to get this vile stuff off of me, but they offered me nothing except screaming, incomprehensible advice.

6 hours I rode, wearing lunch while everyone shrunk away from me, including my girlfriend.

On the plus side, I did have a bit more room...

Glenn Macdonald is an avid hockey enthusiast and former semi-pro hockey player. He resides in Asia and is married with two beautiful children. He still dreams of owning his own NHL team.