|A Seat On The Bus|
The night before departure I go back to the yard to see that the bus had arrived. Remarkably it has. It's a cabin on the back of a lorry. It looks old and rickety. The driver and first mechanic are oiling some wheel bearings. I look inside and try to decide which is the best seat. From the yard, I can see a clerk in the outer office. He's painstakingly writing out the passenger manifest. I see my name is still in 26th place. I wait an age for Madam Director to get off the phone. Eventually, when I have her attention I remind her I am expecting "le première place".
"Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. Just be here in good time," she reminds me.
Wed 17 Mar
On Wednesday morning I’m up before the sun. I take a shower outside, cold water only, and ensure I get along to the SNTV depot by 6:00am. They weigh my bag and charge me for handling. I look inside the bus. A briefcase has been placed on "my" seat. The conductor tells me some other seat is much better anyway but I don’t "buy" it. Other passengers arrive, check-in their luggage, collect their ticket and then leave the yard and sit on the benches outside. It's light now, the sun has risen and I realise I'm hungry. I send a small boy to get me two baguettes. Amusingly the ticket’s "rules & regulations" say "No Animals (dogs, monkeys, or other), children between 3 and 5 years are half price but may not occupy a seat, hand baggage is limited to 5kg, all baggage at own risk." You know, I was trying to decide whether or not to bring a monkey.
At 6:53am, Madam Director comes out of her office and declares it's time to clear the yard. Most comply, a few of us defy, and some are shouted at till they go. Madame Director checks the bus. I show her where I want to sit and that is fine. The owner of the briefcase is told he can sit next to me. Other people have slipped small packages or possessions onto other seats in an attempt to reserve them. This clearly will not be tolerated and she orders her staff to remove all these items from the bus. She tells me and Mr Briefcase to board and then loads an elderly woman who can hardly walk and another woman who is blind, with their respective carers. Then from the barely open gateway of the yard they call the names from the manifest allowing time for each in turn to squeeze through the gap and board. It's 7:30am when the gates finally open and we pull away.
|A Seat On The Bus|