23 July 2008
WHY? WHY? SHOE!
The night of doom began at 10pm when we got in the taxi to catch our bus to Rach Gia, the port town where you catch the ferry to Phu Quoc, our deserted island escape. The taxi took us to a mini-mini bus depot, where we got into another little vehicle that took us to the actual bus depot. As it turns out our “night bus” wasn’t really a night bus at all. No, it was a large van crammed with fourteen seats and legroom that wasn’t even sufficient for Kyle Long (whos is 9 inches shorter than me). I should have known we were doomed as the driver proceeded to karate chop and kick and shove my backpack into the three inches of space between the last row and the back doors.
As my luck would have it, we were assigned seats 13 and 14, the back corner. Naturally, this row had the least legroom, the seats didn’t recline and there were four people on our bench seat. Mind you, everyone else on the “bus” was Vietnamese and a good eight to ten inches shorter than me but no, I would remain here.
I didn’t fit in the seat. I don’t mean this sarcastically. I literally didn’t fit in the seat. Sitting straight up my knees were wedged into the row in front of us. If I tried to slide my feet down under the row in front, I was abruptly stopped by my pesky kneecaps, that just refused to bend backwards. If I slip my legs up to my chest and rested my knees on the seat in front of me, I was halted by the stabbing pains in my lower back from the stress of supporting my body. At exactly 11pm we pulled away, all 14 seats full, everyone else talking at the top of their lungs, music BLASTING on the radio. Kyle sort-of dozed off quickly, as did the other smaller people who sort-of fit in their seats. In all honesty, no one really fit in their seats. They were too small. The whole thing was absurd to the point where I thought it was a joke. The stern look on our dirver’s face reassured me that no, this was not a joke.
Two hours later, back sore, nodding in and out of sleep in my overtly upright position, inflatable neck pillow whispering softly in my ears, “this isn’t happening bucko,” we stopped. I pulled up my eye shade to discover that we were – shockingly – at a roadside restaurant! 1am and we’re stopping for food. Most everyone piled out. I laid down to my side, looking forward to a thirty-minute nap while everyone else chowed down.
“BANG BANG BANG!” The driver pounded loudly on the outside of the van. Those three pats were all it took to bring every ounce of rage in my body to the surface. I slowly sat up, lifting my eye shade as I went. “BANG BANG BANG,” once more on the outside of the car. This time it was followed by a stream of words in Vietnamese that I did not understand. Now he was patting his knee, as if calling me to him. I was pissed. “BANG BANG BANG,” again. I pulled the eye shade off my head with one dramatic swoop and slapped my hand on the seat. “WHY? WHY? WHY?” I yelled at him, my voice getting louder and more irritated with each successive “why.” He then proceeded to bang on the car wall again. I countered by banging on the seat. Then he was rambling again and I was shouting the word why. Bang. Slap. Ramble. Shout. Bang. Slap. Ramble. Shout. It was a heated argument and neither of us had any idea what the other one was saying.
By now Kyle was up and attempting to calm me down. “It’s ok. Lets just get out. It’s ok. Calm down.” I was still yelling. A few shouts later I realized my original goal was now pointless, as I was now wide awake. Deflated, I said “ok” and started putting my shoes on. You’d think at this point he would chill out and wait a second while I fumbled for footwear. No. Instead, he started banging on the side of the car again! Now, I’m not an angry person and rarely do I explode in an irrational fury of totally absurd emotions. Still, I firmly believe that on every trip, you are allotted at least one totally insane, culturally insensitive, “foreigner” moment. Needless to say, this was mine. I grabbed my sandal in my hand, raised it in the air, shook it violently and started yelling “SHOE! SHOE! SHOE!” He countered with some additional banging and unintelligible rambling. By now Kyle was thoroughly bewildered, amused, irritated, maybe a little bit of everything? He lowered my hand down, encouraged my actually putting the sandal on my foot and subsequently getting out of the van, which I did, begrudgingly.
We stood there for 40 minutes at 1am while everyone else ate. One of the 20-something Vietnamese guys in our van came up and asked if we’d like to join he and his friends. “They think you are mad because we are all talking a lot and the music is really loud.” I said nothing. We did not join them. Quite honestly, I am not sorry, which might be bad. The whole experience was totally absurd and I was so freaking angry. Had I not exploded then, it would have just continued to bottle up inside, saved for a later date and time. “Wow, I’ve never seen that side of you,” Kyle told me the next day. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that side of anyone.” Don’t mess yo. Don’t mess.