Travel Tips: Some People Just Want to Share their Misery

November 22, 2014

I recently took the Golden Gate Transit bus from San Francisco to Petaluma. Although I’ve had issues from time to time with punctuality and drivers who let the slightest bit of authority go to their heads by not allowing me to carry a duffel bag on board, for the most part, the rides are quiet (like, Korean levels of quiet) and lacking drama.

I should have known destiny would toss me one curveball before I left this city for the holidays.

We stop on Van Ness. A guy swaggers on board. The bus driver says “hello”. He, quite loudly and belligerently, states:

“I HAVE A DISCOUNT CARD. How much is it to Petaluma?”

“5.25.”

“HOW MUCH TO SANTA ROSA?”

“Are you going to Santa Rosa?”

“HOW MUCH IS IT TO SANTA ROSA?”

“5.75. So, you’re going to Santa Rosa?”

Again, back and forth, back and forth. The guy is standing at the threshold of the bus door and refusing to back down until he gets satisfying answers to his unnecessarily intrusive questions, then starts yelling when the machine won’t take his crumpled five-dollar bill. I might have let the whole thing slide once he finally boarded, until he started making phone calls in his booming annoying voice, only taking breaks to voice his frustration over what happened with other passengers. They weren’t interested.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened in my travels on buses. I witnessed a driver in New Zealand talk in a very condescending manner to a Chinese tourist for the whole bus to hear, and had the misfortune of living close to a loud talker in Korea, who nearly had us thrown off the bus in the middle of the night when she couldn’t speak a little softer.

We all like need to complain from time to time. I get it. No doubt you’ve seen some of my own venting on this blog. It’s not always easy to step outside of the situation and take a look at your own behavior, nor do I expect everyone can when they’re hungry, broke, wet, or cold. But while I think releasing this tension is necessary, I absolutely hate it when people attempt to draw others into their misery by muttering to themselves and challenging someone to pipe in.

On the Internet, this leads to misunderstandings, trolling, and unrighteous indignation. In person, to the extreme, you can have a mob on your hands, or at the very least some shared suffering that can spread like wildfire. If a laugh or a smile can have a positive impact on a stranger, so too can just one encounter with a dour expression.

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