Culture Shock

January 1st, 2016

The stink of winter — sweat, salt, and bewildered frustration — in the air and on the faces of my elderly, frail, and disturbingly zombie-like companions on the number 2 bus. Can’t see out the windows for the inch of winter-sludge covering everything. Bus cannot actually accelerate given its disproportionate size, the snow, and the stops every block and a half, designed to pick up old and withered humans so fragile they can hardly push their own walkers when there isn’t a foot and a half a blowing snow outside. Pay the absurd amount of $3.55 to get on, squeeze past the worst specimen of Canadian, the chatty-old-crazy Canadian, who’s standing at the front of the bus repetitiously talking the bus driver’s ear off, 100% void of any content or meaning except PAY ATTENTION TO ME. Make my way past the walkers and wheelchairs into a seat next to a gentleman so large I only have half a seat to myself, who, terrifyingly, seems also to be in a chatty mood. I resolvedly turn my head, lest I let my guard down and make myself available to yet more terrifyingly inane chatter, knowing the instant I relax would be the precise instant the godawful chitchat would start, yet again. I’m sweaty, balancing my ass on my half-seat, forced to listen to crazy-chatty-old Canadian at the front of the bus, neck turned determinedly away from my neighbour, whose energy I’m sure is still trying to catch mine with a “great weather we’re havin’, eh?” chitchat pickup line.

I’ve been in Germany too long.

Steam coming out my ears, I lunge for the next available seat away from chatty-fatty next to me, hopped up on the neverending free-refilled cup of coffee I had with my fluorescent sugar-salt-fat pumped breakfast served by psychopathically friendly staff; wondering with righeous anger on how the hell could a 5km busride take over an hour, how everyone could tolerate the bus stopping every ten seconds, slowly kneeling to pick up the latest centenarian inches from death (probably by boredom), wondering how the hell the driver and all the passengers could tolerate the loud vapid rambles of the old guy at the front (and what kind of a place finds this acceptable behaviour!), dodging the aggressively friendly stares of all my compatriots on this nightmarish ride, trying not to breathe too much of the pudrid winter bus air, trying vainly to see out the salt-and-shit covered windows to see if I was anywhere close to where I needed to get off.

Needless to say, I got off early.

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