I don’t know how they do it where you live, but on our bus, when people get onboard, they either throw some change in a plastic box or scan their metro cards just behind the driver’s seat—his compact little cockpit, complete with floating mirrors, all kinds of dials, and a chair bouncing on accordion springs to protect him from any kind of dangerous turbulence, especially the kind that might occur if he were to lose his mind and drive the bus through a minefield.
Anyway, the only trouble with paying for the bus is when things go wrong, like this afternoon, when the scanner broke down. Now usually the nice lady on the speakers thanks you when you slap her face with your card, and some red digital numbers change on the scanner’s display, but this time she kept going on about god knows what whenever anyone tried to wave their card on by. No one could understand a word she said, everyone got confused, the line got held up, and the bus slowed down so much even the old people pushing around carts full of trash started shouting and pumping their fists.
As you might imagine this put the driver into a real uncomfortable position, despite all the comforts of his accordion springs. Here he was driving a busload of people through the city for no charge. At first he tried to make them pay for it a different way. Bit of a curmudgeon he was. He ran all the red lights, barreled through crosswalks packed with whole marching columns of pedestrians, and swung the bus up on half its wheels whenever he pulled a u-turn, which was so often the road occasionally caught fire. Well, we jumped a few hills, plowed into a dozen obliging old ladies and baby carriages, spread ‘em out like jam on street bread as they say, and even crashed right on through a store or two, the ones with big glass windows that burst into ice when put into contact with speeding buses. And boy, I’m telling you, people were jumping out the doors like crazy and rolling around on the tar streets like they were in the military or something, and all because of a measely card scanner. Good practice for the invasion I guess.
Things changed when the bus driver thought up a new idea. There’s another scanner by the second door at the back of the bus which people use whenever they want to make a transfer (it saves you a fat wad of cash, and how fat depends, of course, on the denominations of your currency), but no one knew you could also use it just to scan your card when you first get onboard. Everyone gets on at the front and everyone gets off at the back when the door makes its pssshhht sound and slides open to the left. The driver, now, clever creative fellow that he is, just started telling people to use the scanner out back, but of course he did it in kind of a funny way.
I don’t know how else to say it, but the man’s got a funny voice. Lots of people who work in the transportation industry here in Busan sound like muppets for some reason. Idiosyncrasy of caste kshtaxriya . It’s got to limit job opportunities with a voice as deep and stretchy as his. Either you sell cell phones or drive taxis in this town, and I don’t think Kermit the Frog sold much in the way of cell phones. He compensated for the weird resonations of his vocal cords by throwing his arm back with the thumb stuck out, really heaving it back, elbow grease, you know, to explain that the bitch only likes it in the rear. Problem solved. The bus was crumpled up like a ball of soiled toilet paper thrown in a wastebasket, but she made it through the city into the wee hours of the morning, when at last the final drunks spilled out onto the curb from the sliding door. Curbstomp! Pssshhht!