March 26, 2006
When you read about the travels of you learn about the interesting people they meet on the trains and busses of the world. I don’t typically get to meet those people. Either the locals avoid the seat next to me, or I get the rejects of society. Take for instance my trip from Rijeka to Zagreb. The bus was scheduled to leave at 1PM so I got there with plenty of time to spare. I boarded and arranged my stuff in preparation for the voyage.
While I made it look like anyone could sit next to me by clearing my laptop bag from the seat, I secretly hoped I would get the extra space. As the departure time got closer, the bus got closer and closer to capacity. Then I saw the three older guys approaching the bus. Two of them were mostly functioning as support for the center patriarchal leader after a long celebration. I guess he want to help forget the trip to where ever he was going by getting as shit-faced drunk as possible beforehand. Each time his helpers let go for a second, he stumbled around for a second before they came back to his rescue. I watched him with amusement to see which of the many buses he would get on and then got worried as the friends shoved him on to my bus.
OK, there are still plenty of seats for him to use before he has to come to me. He gets closer, then further away, repelled by the people standing between me an him. Whew. Then he comes back. But thankfully there was a pretty young girl with an extra seat a few rows ahead and she got to smell him for the trip. That left three of four seats available including the one next to me.
Fast forward an hour and a half, past the crossing of the mountains, past the crying baby behind me, past the girl ahead dropping her seat onto my knees. We make a stop at some dusty little town to pickup and drop off some passengers. The drunk stumbles off and disappears. One or two other passengers get off and collect their bags. Then an old lady and her elderly son get on…oh wait, the younger one with a significant beard and moustache, it may turn out to be her daughter, though I didn’t feel it was appropriate to confirm nor deny. Anyway, the younger one places the mother in one of the empty seats, sitting in the drunk’s seat herself.
I prayed that this was Mr.Liquor’s stop and thanked my lucky stars when the bus started moving again. But then when the bus attendant noticed there was a missing passenger, he stopped and went out looking for him. Some minutes later, the boozer falls back into the bus but then gets very confused when he sees that his seat was taken. I can’t be sure whether he was confused about the fact that someone was where he was sitting, or if he was trying to figure out if it was male or female.
After a few more minutes, he stumbled to my seat and asked if it was occupied. Well, I assume that’s what he said. Now I couldn’t really say, no, my wife/girlfriend/friend/someone was sitting there as the bus was already moving and nobody was up and about. So he made himself comfortable. This involved a sideways lounging position using my arm and chest as a backrest. I was stunned.
Thankfully we only had another hour to go of this. At this point, a real travel writer would tell you about what changed to make the trip a bit more comfortable for me. Well, that’s them. I will instead tell you that this is the way it continued for the rest of the journey. I tried to say a few things to him which didn’t go through, either because he spoke no English, or he was way past being sober enough to remember any English. But then after an hour we pulled into the Zagreb bus station and this memorable trip was over.
So here is the moral of the story. If you find yourself in Zagreb and feel like taking the very worthwhile trip out to Rijeka, Opatija, and the Kvarner area, I do recommend taking the bus. Its about 15 Euros (versus about 120 for a taxi) and includes some spectacular scenery. But if you are on the bus and a smelly drunk asks if he can take the seat next to you, state quite forcefully that your wife just stepped up for a moment and will be back very soon. He will be too confused to argue and you will not loose all feeling in your arm for the next few hours.