Speed and Spittle
another harrowing encounter with death and bad habits

from : a seat in the back of a hurtling bus. Pyay to Yangon, Myanmar

I am reminded, I wish I wasn't, of an attrocious bus ride I took in China. This time I'm on a bus from Pyay to Yangon, nervous about the incredible velocities the young gun at the wheel has forced this rickity bus to reach. After weeks of walking, bicycling or at the most taking very slow trains, 65mph seems ludicrously, unnecasarily dangerous. After the blowouts on the road to Mandalay I know from experience it is, and begin to fear careening wildly off the road to roll over and over in the rice paddies, bodies and baggage all tumbling about. The asphalt strip is too narrow for two vehicles to pass simultaneously so one vehicle must allow two wheels to drift into the deep sand of the shoulder. If we give way there is a danger of loosing control. If our opposite number yields, the cloud of grit kicked up by the tires comes in through our windows sticks to our sweaty skin, texturing the ashen hue of our fearful faces like sandpaper.

Fear of a crash fades quickly in the face of a far more disgusting danger than death and dismemberment. Easily the worst result of the speed is that the weak stomachs of people used to travelling at ambulatory speeds can't stand up to what must be to them an extended roller coaster ride. The g-forces are quickly filling the small plastic vomit bags being passed around, though strangely it is only the women retching and carelessly flinging full bags of puke from the windows like waterballoons. It seems that the betel nut all the men are chewing cures motion sickness, if not the need to eject copious amounts of body fluid in the form of blood red saliva.

This concerns me for I sit near the back of the bus, in a window seat. Unlike the similar bus ride in China, the weather here is hot. Without air-con, all the open windows are creating a fierce wind tunnel making the earlobes of the man in front of me flap like flags in a hurricane. The woman in front of me is spitting her rising bile continiously, splattering me from time to time. I adopt a boxers attitude, ready to duck and bob around flying drops of spittle, whether yellow or red. Useless though, so when a globule of sufficient size inevitably broke through my defenses I let out an exhagerated yelp and brought my hands to my face, as though hit by a large rock. Making the most of wiping the saliva from my face before the audience my cry had gained me, there was no response from the spitter. The man behind passed forward his hankie and the women in the aisle tittered infuriatingly. My only respite is to titter back when the next lurch of the bus has them all doubled over vomiting, like horses with strapped on feed bags.

~ Nigel



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