This Guy Will Go Far, By Not Going Far

, , , , | Friendly | February 16, 2019

(I’m a passenger on the bus. A guy gets on and sits down in the seat across from me. The second the bus starts moving, he pulls the “stop requested” rope and gets off at the next stop, which, thanks to the huge cluster of stops on this street, is barely a block away from where he got on.)

Me: “You’re getting off already? Didn’t you just get on?”

Passenger: “Yep. My bus pass expires today and I wanted to give it one last taste of being useful before I throw it away.”

(Well, at least he didn’t pay $2 to ride for barely a minute.)

Are You Mandarin Or Out?

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 13, 2019

After studying Mandarin for about six years, I decide to take a year off of college to travel in China. The last semester of my trip, I find work as an assistant teacher in Shanghai, where I live for about four months. For most of my time there, I use a winning combination of the subway and the occasional touk-touk to get around the city. To make this as easy as possible, I also invest in a Chinese debit account and a Shanghai metro card.

Towards the end of my semester, as I’m packing up to leave, I invite my mom and my sister to come play tourist for about a week and eventually help me drag all my stuff back to America. I buy them metro cards, too, and take some time showing them around the city. Midway through one of our trips, my own metro card starts running low on funds, and I stop at a relatively small station to restock.

The station is small enough that there’s only one card kiosk, alongside the metro card help desk. A twenty-something, stylishly-dressed Chinese man is struggling with the relatively simple kiosk, which is on a screen I’ve never seen before, while the help desk security guard, an older man, smokes a cigarette and berates him loudly from just in front of his desk. From what I understand of the conversation, the younger guy is trying to add more money onto his card, which the metro guard could easily do at his desk, but he’s hit the wrong buttons and is still insisting he’s in the right. The argument is loud, but not overly heated; the younger guy seems more anxious than anything, and the security guard is visibly laughing at him.

When they both see me and my obviously very white family waiting to use the kiosk, the security guard yells at the younger guy to let me use it. He waves me over without a word, and I step up to the screen. The characters are pretty basic, so I don’t bother switching the kiosk to English. I tap the Reset button and then the Load Card button, and then I pull out my phone to pay with my Chinese debit card. All told, it takes about twenty seconds. When I pull out my metro card and turn back to my family, the previously noisy station is dead quiet. My mom is looking past me, visibly holding back a smile, and my sister looks like she’s about to burst out laughing.

The Chinese guy behind me says, “What?!”

I turn around to find him slowly lowering his phone from where he’d been filming me, his expression thunderstruck. Behind him, the older security guard is laughing so hard he’s gripping the desk to stay upright. Aside from his single English word, the younger guy seems absolutely lost for what to say.

I say in Chinese, “Do you understand how to use the machine now, or can I help you with it?”

My sister gives in to laughter as the guy slowly, slowly shakes his head. Together, my very white, very American family steps through the security gate into the train terminal, leaving the poor guy — and his video of the clueless white-girl tourist — ruined forever.

Direction Deflection

, , , , , | Friendly | January 31, 2019

(I am waiting for the bus. As soon as it comes into view, a young man approaches me.)

Man: “Excuse me, miss. Do you know if this bus goes to [Direction]?”

Me: “Yeah, sounds about right.”

Man: “Great! Thanks.”

(He got on the bus with me. Two hundred meters later, at the next stop, he jumped out of his seat, sprinted across four — thankfully empty — lanes to the other end of the intersection and got on a different bus… going in the opposite direction. I was left confused.)

They’re Not Going To Throw You Under The Bus

, , , , | Hopeless | December 15, 2018

I’m a fairly young-looking girl. I’ve recently started working a fairly horrible shift — three am to eleven am — sorting parcels to make some extra money for Christmas, around three miles from my home. I don’t drive, so I bought a bike to make life easier, as there’s no one I know that can give me a lift at those sort of times.

This morning I set off from home as usual. It was pretty icy out, and I blamed that for the slight veering and wobbling along the way. About ten minutes in, I realised that my handlebars had misaligned, and were getting looser and looser. Thinking that by the time I got home to take it back I’d be late for work, I decided to just push the d*** thing to work and deal with just being a few minutes late… completely forgetting that the route I take is cycle-based into an industrial area outside of town, and most of the rest of the way is pitch-black and without pavement or a sidewalk. But at least I had my visibility vest from work, and nothing happened apart from being rained on.

I finally finished work at 11, realised that I was exhausted, and I couldn’t risk veering all over the road when there was actual traffic, but at least I could catch a bus halfway and just push my bike the rest. I saw an off-duty bus driver pull up at the parcel depot I was leaving to collect a parcel, and thinking that I’d never tried to take a bike on a bus I should probably ask before detouring to the bus stop. He told me that unless it’s a long journey route, there’s no bike racks or space, and none the city buses in this area allow them. And at that point, I realised how much I’d been counting on the idea of not having to walk the whole hour in the rain. I was exhausted. I managed to hold back the tears that started to form and thanked him for telling me. I began slowly pushing the dang bike in the general direction of home, trying to map a walking route on my nearly-dead phone.

About five minutes later, the same guy pulled over next to me in his not-in-service bus and told me that it wasn’t ideal, but the route to the depot to drop his bus off went quite close to town, and he wouldn’t mind dropping me off.

I almost began to see the world as if I were in some anime, and a shining white Knight was offering to help. My eyes widened and glistened as I could only croak the word, “Really?”

My house was actually nearer the depot than the town centre, and this wonderful person dropped me off less than two minutes from my house, for free. He spent the journey asking questions and taking my mind off how awful I’d been feeling since starting these horrible shifts, and telling me how things will get better.

I know it’s a stupid and small thing in the grand scheme of things, but at that moment it felt like the single nicest thing anyone had ever done for someone. And I’m not one for fuzzy feelings or faith in humanity. But today, at least for a little while, faith in humanity seems like a viable concept.

No Need To Pardon This French

, , , , , , , | Friendly | December 6, 2018

(My father and I are coming back home from church. We are speaking English because we attend an American church and just didn’t bother going back to speaking French. We’re both fluent and speak English with no accent at all. We take seats in the underground and go on with our conversation for a few minutes until I notice that the lady in the seat next to mine is glaring at us. Keep in mind that we’re in Paris, one of the cities with the most tourists in the world.)

Lady: *in French, to her friend, obviously thinking my father and I don’t understand* “These foreigners are way too loud! Why are they here? If they want to speak English, they should go back to their country. They should make an effort to speak French.”

(She keeps going on like that for quite some time. I tell my father, who was politely going to tell her to shut up that it’s not worth it, but her rant is starting to annoy me. At that point she’s speaking very loudly, and the other people around are looking at us.)

Lady: “Ils croivent qu’ils peuvent venir ici et nous envahir avec leur culture!” *They think they can come here and invade us with their culture!*

(There is an enormous grammar mistake in that sentence. Our stop is next, and my father is fuming by that time. I stand up and start towards the doors, but I can’t resist turning around to face her.)

Me: *in French* “Ma’am, you have been incredibly rude, and you’ve been disturbing the other passengers. If you don’t want to see foreigners, don’t live in Paris. Oh, and by the way, ‘croivent’ is not correct French, so maybe you should think twice before telling people to speak French, given that you are obviously unable to speak it correctly yourself.”

(She turned red, and some of the other passengers started laughing, including her own friend. I got off the underground with a huge grin on my face. My dad was laughing his a** off and ended up buying me a cookie on our way back.)

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