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My most uncomfortable journey aboard an old rusty, croaking bus

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You arrive at the booking office at the indicated check-in time, ready to travel and possibly enjoy the scenic views en route. As you wait, you can see your bus parked outside, a sleek, modern machine whose seats – as seen through the windows – look as comfortable as a mother’s bosom, giving you a new excitement for the trip ahead.

Just when it’s almost time to board, someone hoists themselves into the driver’s seat and drives the bus a small distance away. You feel pretty confused. What’s going on? Why are you boarding the bus over there?

Your questions are quickly answered when another bus is slowly parked in front of you. An old, croaking piece of rusting metal that could give you tetanus if you touched it. It is your bus. You don’t want to sit in that dilapidated tin for hours, but you have no choice. You swear some expletives under your breath, and, just like other times before, promise to board a plane next time.

The door is opened and passengers grudgingly start getting into the wreck. You enter the bus and walk while looking at the seat numbers, your ticket in one hand for guidance. After spotting your seat, you put your bag on the luggage carrier above the seats, then settle in your chair by the open window and gaze outside, contemplating the rude, sudden change of the transportation vessel, one of the main, most important features in any journey.

The passenger who will be sitting next to you arrives and mutters a greeting, and you look at them and mutter a response. Before they even get to your seat, you smell them. They are wearing the most pungent, strongest-smelling perfume your nose has ever encountered; those scents that waft ahead of someone, getting inside a room long before the person gets in, and lingering for a millennium after they’ve left.

You quickly look away with your nose twisted, glad that your seat is by the window. Your neighbour pushes your bag aside to create room for their luggage, but they will still somehow manage to place their heavy luggage right on top of your bag. Then, while still standing, they check their ticket again, look at your chair, and tell you that you are lounging on their seat. You disagree. It is yours. You checked more than once.

They bend over to you to show you the fading numbers on the seats, proving that you’re wrong. The fumes of their repugnant perfume torment your nasal passageways and make your eyes tear. You weren’t going to give up that seat very easily, but that strong whiff jostles you into quickly apologising, and you get up and let them occupy their rightful seat, then sit on yours.

Unlike the other chair, this one doesn’t have a seat cover, the seat belt is broken, one side does not have an arm rest, and it is not as cushiony. You rely on the squidge of fat around your waist to cushion you. More passengers get in, and you keep ducking your head so that their bags don’t hit you, but, still, as they pass, someone’s buttocks brutally skid across your cheek, then someone else wearing heavy rocks for shoes steps on your foot, crushing your toes and your dwindling hopes for decent travel.

During the journey, you realise that you’re already smelling like your neighbour’s offensive perfume. And that your seat keeps jerking backwards, making your head jerk too, and causing a painful strain on your jugular veins.

The person sitting behind you has abnormally long legs, because you can feel their knees digging into your backbone through the back of your seat, and you can almost feel yourself getting paralysed. You try to lift your head and turn to look at them so that they can see you, and see that their long appendages are hurting a kind and loving person, but just as you turn your head, the seat jerks again, making you bite your tongue accidentally. The pain in your neck cannot let you turn your head either.

So you resort to murder them in your head in many different, gruesome ways. The person sitting directly in front of you has tilted their seat backwards, taking up your leg room, and whenever the bus hits a pothole, the top of their seat strongly knocks your chin, giving you an uppercut that would make Mike Tyson squirm.

And you cannot escape this assault by tilting your own seat backwards as well because the seat is faulty. The wind gushing in from the window – which, you found out, is broken – and blowing your neighbour’s malodorous perfume right into your face, causing you to inhale the stench, is giving you grim respiratory complications, and you know that the first thing you’ll do after reaching your destination is go to a hospital.

Meanwhile, your neighbour is comfortably sleeping, with their seat nicely tilted backwards, completely oblivious and unaffected by your afflictions.

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