Strangely, perhaps, bus travel in Hanoi appears to be a rich vein of observational comedy and wonder.
Take the other night, for instance, I was on the 41 (bus 3 of 3) on the way home. At the last stop but one at the flower market, everyone but me gets off the bus. About halfway to the last stop, the driver pulls into the side of the road, switches off the engine and the internal lights, then he and the ticket seller get off and proceed to take a pee up against the side of the bus. As you do, at the side of a major road at the busiest time of day.
Two shakes and they were back on the bus, and we were underway to the last stop. Both the front and back doors were open, so when we pulled in at the stop I jumped off and walked away. I had barely got five metres when I heard a shout behind me and tap on the shoulder. “Sorry, sorry.”
It was the bus driver apologizing for the unscheduled piss stop. No worries, I said. Remembering not to shake his hand.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. It seems some bus crews – not all – are shy about taking a leak at the last stop because it is right beside the police station.
Meanwhile, and this is quite topical given the league-topping pollution levels in the capital these days, could carbon monoxide give you weird thoughts? Standing at a bus stop on a major road recently, I began wondering what the full name of Jerry, of Tom and Jerry fame, was; Tom was short for Thomas we know already, but Jerry? Could it be Gerald, Gerard, or Geraldine? This has never been fully answered before.
Then it was on to Top Cat. Were we ever told TC’s real name? Did he have a back story? And what about Bagpuss? That surely was never a real name. It’s either the carbon monoxide, or the unmitigated boredom that makes your mind wander to places you would rarely otherwise visit.
On a more sensible note, have you ever wondered why there are no female bus drivers in Hanoi? Taxi drivers and Grab, yes. But no women bus drivers as far as I am aware. Why is this? You see plenty women behind the wheel of buses in Europe. If you know different, please leave a comment below.
Finally, another question, why is it you hardly ever see drunks on buses? I ride the buses a lot, and can truthfully say I have only ever seen one drunk. I once saw a guy piss himself where he sat, but I am pretty sure he wasn’t drunk. Challenged in other ways but not by alcohol.
Bus travel in Hanoi is never dull.