I know I have had A LOT of experiences on the buses of Vanuatu. It is frustrating at times and downright funny at other times. Here’s another Friday evening bus story.
My small brother and I left work really late. It was the Friday of October 4, 2013. I had asked him to come so he could help me carry stuff home. Well, as things worked out, we left work at 6:00pm. On the roadside beside Wan Smolbag Theatre, we started the arduous task of stopping buses. Two guys, trying to stop a bus to Beverly Hills at Tagabe is an exercise in futility.
We flagged bus after bus and no bus driver felt the need to drive up to Beverly Hills. By the time 6:30pm rolled around, we were still on the side of the road and my brother was quietly fuming. He hadn’t washed his Sabbath clothes yet.
Eventually, a drunk driver agreed to take us home. This in itself was a breach of traffic laws, and I should have declined, but no other buses was going to pick us up. There was a teenager – either a relative or friend of the driver – sitting on the passenger seat beside the driver. In the bus was another passenger, a lady – headed to Namburu.
We hopped in the bus and the driver took us away, zig-zagging around the potholes immediately before the Tagabe roundabout – at breakneck speed. Along the way, we picked up another lady who was headed to Erakor Hafrod – a destination that is logically after ours. If the driver had a clear head, he would drop us first then drop her off.
We dropped off the first lady at Namburu then headed to Freswota – evidently on our way to Beverly Hills. On the way there, being the drunk that he was, the driver headed straight for his girlfriend’s house at Freswota 4 – on a side road just past the Presbyterian Church. He had developed the sudden urge to see his son and girlfriend, and so he had neglected customer service.
His future in-laws weren’t too happy to see him. His girlfriend was sympathetic at first and handed their son to him. He held the child and kissed him, and the little man was every bit happy to see his father – alcoholic nonetheless. His girlfriend became visibly irritated at him exhaling his alcoholic fumes into the child’s face and tried to pry him from the drunk father’s hands – who by this time had forgotten about his passengers.
Meanwhile, the four of us sat in the bus waiting. My brother turned to me and observed (unnecessarily) that the man was drunk. I made a frustrated and rather loud “AHEM!” sound to remind the amorous father that he had passengers waiting. That jolted him out of his embrace and he handed the child back to its mother. By this time the mother was physically scratching her head in frustration and cursing him under her breath. The boy made a face as if to cry, but thought better of it and made baby sounds instead.
The driver got back into the bus and we sped out of the yard as if we were on a highway. We headed back to the main road and turned to Freswota 5. He ignored the speed humps and flew over them. I vowed to my brother that if we had an accident and lived to talk about it, I would beat the shit out of the driver. My brother vowed to smash the driver’s head with the dried coconuts I’d bought earlier at the main market and brought to work – to be taken home eventually.
Just past the Freswota School, someone stopped the bus and asked to be dropped off at Freswota Park. The driver invited him onboard and we drove on. That really got the vein on my forehead pumping. I was becoming increasingly agitated. If we were going to drop this guy off, we would arrive at the house really late!
We arrived at Freswota 5 and a church friend of ours got on the bus. He was going to Nambatu, which is definitely far from Beverly Hills. We headed to Freswota Park and dropped off the other gentleman. By that time, the bus driver had become disoriented and had forgotten where we were going. I was muttering threats!
He looked into the rear view mirror and asked the lady, “Aunty, where are you going?” To which she reminded him that she was headed to Erakor Hafrod. He then asked “How about the other aunty?” There was no other aunty! Only three of us guys in the back and his friend/relative sitting with him at the front. In a low tone, my brother replied “Beverly Hills!”. We all broke out it laughter as the confused driver tried to collect his thoughts. He had obviously forgotten that we’d already dropped of the other lady at Namburu. The aunty headed to Erakor Hafrod couldn’t hold back her giggles. It didn’t curb my agitation though.
Our friend who was headed to Nambatu realized that I was mad, so as we were approaching USP, he nervously called out to the bus driver that he was in a rush and needed to get to Nambatu as soon as possible. The driver drove right past USP, assuring our friend that he would be delivered to his destination on time, no worries. Meanwhile, I was imagining different episodes of slowly killing the bus driver.
As we were driving down the Tasiriki road, the driver spotted some friends on the lorry right in front of us and started honking and yelling expletives at them in the Vanuatu easy-go-lucky, no-nonsense, laid-back manner that gives no attention to timing! That went on for sometime until we arrived at the roundabout at Korman. The lorry went on to Teouma, while we turned right, on our way to Erakor Hafrod. I was audibly swearing at the driver and our friend sitting with me was getting anxious. My brother laughed nervously.
We got to Erakor Hafrod, dropped off the aunty and turned around. I had my fingers crossed that we would get off before the friend who was going to Nambatu. But no, that was not the case. The bloody driver had promised to get our friend to his destination on time. He had obviously forgotten about us. So we drove right back up to USP and headed to Nambatu. Now, instead of taking the direct route to Nambatu, the idiot turned left at Ecole Collardeau and we took the road to Seaside. I was getting cranky and wishing that the bus would crash so I would have an excuse to beat up the stupid driver!
We took the back way until he was sure he’d turn and head straight for the roundabout at ABM Nambatu. That he did, but then forgot about our friend. He drove right past our friend’s destination and we had to yell at him several times. I openly cursed him and he stopped, turned around and went back to our friend’s destination – Portoroki SDA Church. I was on the verge of picking a fight with the driver.
The bus stopped outside the church house and our friend got off. In my anger, I got up and left the bus as well, taking my share of the groceries with me, even paying for my bus fare. I forgot to tell my brother to get off. He got out looking confused and asked if he should pay for his bus fare. I cursed him and the bus driver and confirmed that he should pay for his fare. The driver was confused to see three people disembark. He thought there was only one person inside.
Our friend didn’t wait to hear me cursing the driver. He quietly left for church while the two of us headed back to the main road to get on another bus.
Only after the bus had left did I realize I shouldn’t have paid for bus fare! Well, it was the beginning of Sabbath and that was the price I had to pay for working late into the Sabbath. We eventually got on another bus. My brother refrained from saying anything that would provoke my wrath on him so he took over and stopped a bus and made sure we arrived at Beverly Hills – albeit two hours later!
I have blacklisted this bus so I don’t get on it ever again!