I often have to wait a while for the afternoon bus, so when I saw it approaching after only a few minutes I jumped on, but only to turn around to see that someone had just sat in the last available seat. I grabbed the back of a seat and tried to brace myself against the herky-jerky motion of the bus all the way home, but today (as always) was really my lucky day. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see two gentlemen offering me their seat. I graciously accepted one and as I sat down I saw an even older woman climb aboard the bus. Now, in Medellin, all the buses have really small turnstiles that everyone must go through and I wasn’t sure this woman was going to fit. She managed to squeeze herself through and another gentlemen stood up and offered her his seat. As she sat down, her change purse opened and coins scattered on the floor. Since the coins looked close, I bent down and gathered them up and returned them to her. Then I noticed some coins on the other side of the bus and tapped the woman on the shoulder and pointed to the coins. From behind me, a gentlemen saw the coins, came forward, knelt down, gathered the remaining coins and returned them to the owner. It was a real team effort and I couldn’t help noticing how courteous the men were. At this point, all the passengers were watching this unfold and there was a chuckle from most people because the whole scene looked kind of funny.
No sooner did I settle in my seat once again, that I saw that the bus diverted from its intended route. I thought that perhaps he was avoiding an accident or the traffic was re-routed for some reason, but when the bus didn’t get back on track after a few blocks I started to worry. I looked at my GPS and, sure enough, I was headed in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. OK, don’t panic, I said to myself. I didn’t know if I should get off the bus and get on the return bus going the other way. I thought I remembered hearing something about the buses go circular in one direction only. So I stayed on for a while, thinking of what my choices were. I pulled out the phone to call Bill and his phone was off. Still not panicking!
I turned on my translator only to find I had no service. Now, I’m starting to panic. I am a beginner Spanish speaker. I just started speaking in a classroom situation. I make my way to the bus driver to try and tell him where I wanted to get off and when I opened my mouth, I forgot every word of Spanish I learned. I choked! When I finally mumbled something about San Diego, the bus driver realized I didn’t speak English and his eyes bulged out like he was thinking, “Hey lady, I’m only the bus driver. I don’t speak English!” He looked over to the passenger seated next to him and asked her if she knew what I was talking about.
Well, she tried really hard to get her point across in English, but after the first two or three words, everything was in Spanish. I just nodded my head and hoped I would be able to recognize the stop I got on so I could get off and get on the right bus. The lady continued to talk to me and it was clear to all on the bus that we were having trouble communicating.
Again, another gentlemen came to the rescue. He stepped to the front of the bus and asked, in almost perfect English, how he could help me. I told him where I wanted to go and he said he would show me. I thanked him and settled in for a long ride back to town. When things started to look familiar, sure enough, the gentlemen indicated to me that it was time to get off. I saw what I thought was a familiar landmark and started to walk towards it. The gentlemen stopped me and said that this was only a transfer point and we needed to catch another bus. He not only escorted me across a very busy street, he paid my fare on the next bus!
I grabbed the last two seats on the bus and that’s when I had an opportunity to meet Diego, who grew up in Medellin. We had about a 15 minute ride to my stop and Diego and I chatted the whole way. Diego pointed out my stop, told me what direction to go, and I was off. I made it home only an hour later than usual, but what an experience.
I wanted to share this story with everyone because it’s always when you least expect it that you experience random simple acts of kindness. I’m truly grateful to the men who helped me today — from Chucho, who made sure I had the money for the bus, to the gentlemen who offered me their seats, to the bus driver, who never lost his patience, and a special thanks to Diego, who guided me back to my home base.
I’ll save my story of what happened when I went to add more data to my phone for another day!
Buen Dia everyone!