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On The Buses

Cheiron references classic British TV and gets on the Bus in Copenhagen.

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by Cheiron Coelho, for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2008
After empathizing with the drivers' patience of Job and the tolerance of Siddhartha for a couple of days, my cerebral cortex exhausted its resilience.

Don't you run when you cross the road? Or are you one of those amblers with a death wish that dares the road rage of the driver approaching you? So why don't you play chicken with taxi drivers? Or the Brians (read: young hooligans with a souped up killing machine whose music systems decibel level compensates for the echo chamber between their ears) of our roads that place a simpletons implicit trust in a mechanical contraptions infallibility? So why do we casually gamble with death, every time we cross the path of a bus?

It is said that the buses on route number 5 in Copenhagen transport more passengers in a single day than all the buses in Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, in one week. So, I hopped on a few of these mustard coloured shuttles and rode them along their winding and torturous daily routes. What a shortcut for tourists to gauge the pulse of this ancient city!

Two dozen toddlers mount the steps of the bus, guided by the benevolence of their minders. Their excitement tempered only by the patronizingly smiling faces of adult strangers, trying to communicate their approval of little people. The kids promptly ignore everyone and begin to bicker amongst themselves. Legions of the self same adults have warned them not to talk to strangers.

A myopic old man not realizing that a traffic jam is inhibiting the bus' passage on one side and parked cars on the other, shuffles towards the bus idling twenty meters before the bus stop. The driver in the meantime spotting a gap in the traffic behind him swerves out and accelerates towards the stop, passing the old codger. The passengers disembark, the driver shuts the backdoors and awaits the doddering shufflers wounded trek, only to be soundly berated by dourness personified, for being inconsiderate. The driver flashes me a smile of passive inevitability. I smile back in hopeless acceptance.

Hordes of Arabic speaking immigrants pile into the bus in Vesterbro, evoking my terror of scimitar waving Salah-ud-din's that routed our misguided ancestors quest for the Holy Land. They were disgorged in turn, in Nørrebro. Where in their misguided attempt to stave off the fear and the terrifying isolation of the infidel they try to lead better lives, in a ghetto.

A couple of racists get on the bus in their green bomber jackets, their shaved heads and military boots. And having nowhere to spit, swallow their bile, and sit in the rear of the bus glaring at the ethnic minority, totally powerless to stop the tide of humanities attraction for each other. Not being a totalitarian country but a democratic one, they too are allowed to exist, much too ignorant to realize it.

Self-conscious teenagers loudly jabber there way through another day. Drunken students parading their red and white pea caps signaling the end of drudgery, assail the driver with mismatched tickets and insufficient fares, giggling at their own ineptitude and the drivers' impervious demands.

Bicyclists weave in and out of traffic in desperate cat 'n' mouse games trying to beat the bus or just hog the road because of their God given right to be there. Cars parked inconsiderately within the yellow lined jurisdiction magnify the driver's already limited maneuverability. Motorcyclists in their summer frenzy roar past ignoring the bus' blind spot, people climb out of parked cars during the bus' passage with the invulnerability of supermen, gloating and daring the driver to touch them if he can.

There is so much we take for granted, that we never notice these saints that drive these cumbersome monsters through the streets of Copenhagen. Of course my frayed nervous system was incompatible with the drivers'. After empathizing with the drivers' patience of Job and the tolerance of Siddhartha for a couple of days, my cerebral cortex exhausted its resilience. Activating my cirrhosis-ridden liver, it sent me to sedate its jarred neural pathways.

And as I took my leave of these marvelous men and women I couldn't help but wonder, that tomorrow when I put on my public mask and hop on the bus to work, whether I myself will not join the rest of the selfish and treat the selfless to another day of misery.

And when I am about to cross the road these days and spot a bus, I wait till it passes by, for who knows maybe the driver is not having a good day.

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