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Friday, March 27, 2009

Back in the 'States

I have arrived, though I was caught off-guard by the total lack of fanfare.

Took some buses to get from LAX to the home of the infamous DCP.

Had forgotten that buses are a form of lower-class transportation here in the states (whereas in Asia even people who are relatively well-off use them). Thus was unprepared for the assortment of passengers who were physically and mentally handicapped, old and overly-made-up, funny-smelling, funkily-garbed, gangsterish, grossly overweight, generally "different," or some combination thereof. Not that there were any truly weird incidents, except:

It was the bus driver's first day, or at least one of her first days, and she kept zooming past bus stops where would-be riders were seated, then she had to stop and wait for them to run and catch up with the bus. Upon entering, she would apologize and say she couldn't see them if they didn't stand up and hail the bus. Valid point, I suppose, but it happened about 8 times in under an hour.

Then she forgot that she was driving an abridged route and that she was supposed to kick us off halfway to Santa Monica. I was actually relieved when she kept on the route despite the automated announcement telling all the passengers to get off. But after another 10 minutes she got some warning message saying she was off course and she had to kick us all out and give us transfer stubs so we could take the next bus running the complete route. She did this and apologized.

I waited for about 10 minutes with 2 Russian tourists, one elderly black man who was looking for some veteran affairs office and took offense when people asked him if he meant the veterans' hospital, and a guy who looked like carrot top, except in a wheelchair. Logic problem: If two of the four people had bottles in paper bags, and the other two people were Russians, which country's citizens were in contravention of international booze stereotypes?

The next bus came and after some amazing (really, none of the standard sarcasm-masquerading as enthusiasm here, seriously) automated acrobatics that the bus did to help the wheelchair dude on, I stepped in with my bags. As I hauled 'em into the bus, the driver (understandably enough) asked if I was headed towards the airport. I told him no and then mentioned the stop where I was planning to get off, at which point he apologized to me, saying something like "I see. I'm really sorry sir. I was just trying to do my best to help. Please accept my apology." This obviously made me feel quite guilty - maybe I had replied really curtly? Maybe my time in Korea has given me some unnatural intonation? Maybe I only know how to converse with tourists and non-native speakers of english? Maybe I just turned into a huge prick? So I apologized and said that I hadn't meant to come across that way. Then he responded with another apology in a total scold voice: "No, sir. I was in the wrong. I was just trying to help but I made a mistake. Please accept my apology." Then I (surprise) commenced arguing with him about how he didn't need to apologize, telling him that his question was entirely sensible and that I appreciated his attempt to help me out. At which point he said: "You don't understand, sir. I'm a public servant and everything I say is taped. I am assumed to be wrong 100% of the time. Now please understand my situation. I'm sorry for asking and hope you'll accept my apology."

"I see. Alright. Thanks."

This was followed by an awkward 10 minutes until my stop, during which time I was wondering how our goodbye would play out. I thanked him and wished him a nice day. He did the same. Still in a scold voice.


Jamal said...

Fanfare!!!! Welcome home, buddy!

AZ said...

Hooray! Welcome back from me and J as well. We'll accord you the proper fanfare in June!

Laura said...

Welcome home!! Time to pig out!! What are you going to eat first? I'm going straight for the mexican food myself.

Mike said...

For my first meal, David took me to a restaurant called "Barney's Beanery" on the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica. After much hesitation caused by the momentousness of the decision, I selected Chili with spanish rice, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and oyster crackers. Oh my.

Then we went camping and ate GORP and salami and peanut butter for 5 days. Oh my.