Friday, January 15, 2010

Tell-A-Tale (Part 57): Happy New Year?

There are just so many things that I’ve been meaning to share in the past 2 weeks - the temples of Prambanan, gudeg, Alexandria, Saqqara, Luxor and of course the good food I had, leading to the new year. After each great experience, I just couldn’t wait to get my photos done and blog about it. Sad to say, fatigue has gotten the better of me. I’m tired, really tired - physically and mentally. Perhaps 2010 may not a good year for me, as I’ve observed so far. There are, among others - a failed module (the simplest one, at that), backlogs, delays and disputes. On average, I get 4 hours of sleep. I started consuming coffee again to perk myself up and had diarrhoea for that, seriously. The only thing I want to do when I open that bedroom door is to just die on the floor. But of course, there are reports to read and chores to be done.

I re-read the above.

Funny. There I was, the cynical one who would roll eyes reading posts of people bemoaning their allegedly f-ed up lives/jobs/girlfriends/boyfriends/etc.

Let me just come back to the point, which is to talk about the one particular incident that had left me really beaten. That day, I’d slept for merely an hour before hitting the office.

For the past 13 years, I’ve developed this love-hate relationship with the Puduraya bus terminal. What can I say, this is one of the very few places where one can get affordable coach tickets to other states and beyond. Where else in the world can you get relatively comfortable express buses to Johor Bahru and Singapore for mere RM31 and RM50 respectively? And it’s always the first sighting of the terminal that makes me feel that, yes, I’m home.

Besides the standardization of counter sizes, a few LCD screens and a layer of new paint, nothing much has changed, I feel. There’s the overwhelming amount of carbon monoxide emission at the platforms, the perpetual congestion that causes delays and the countless ulat (touts), which I must admit, are pretty helpful at times.

I was waiting for my bus to return to Singapore at 11.15 pm on the first Sunday night of 2010. To have to anticipate the late arrival of buses here is of no surprise. So, around midnight, the bus made a grand entrance into the boarding area. It was 30 minutes late. Not too bad, really. I’ve experienced delays of more than 2 hours on several occasions.

The interior of the bus was well-furbished, colourful and hooray, I’ve gotten an individual seat! I was really looking forward to a good sleep after an exhausting week in Egypt. Just as I reclined my seat, this girl in her mid-twenties asked to confirm my seat number. Our seat numbers were identical and both tickets were issued by the same bus company. There must have been a mistake somewhere. We questioned each other and decided that the best way to settle this was to ask the conductor. By the way, several other duplicates were found too. At that moment, you could see many of the victims getting restless. They must be first timers. Or tourists.

The conductor, the great judge himself graced the bus with a smile. He must have not been informed of the happenings in the bus. The driver, sitting comfortably with a packet of kopi-o in hand, refused to assist the anxious passengers. Saya tak tau. Lu tanya sama itu koyak tiket punya orang. (I don’t know. Ask the conductor later.)

After checking the tickets, the conductor would ask one of the two passengers with the identical pair of tickets to get off the bus and proceed to wait for the next in schedule. Schedule? Dah nak sampai dah. Kat Sungai Besi tol dah. (The next bus will arrive soon. It’s now at the Sungai Besi toll). This was repeated to others facing the same problem. I saw some people retaliating to that by not giving up their seats. They were not wrong. Why should anyone with an official ticket be told to get off the bus? Was that the best answer he could give? It certainly sounded more like an instruction to me. Came our turn and his honour, again, churned out his little number. I tried to reason. I told him that it’s unfair for me to leave my seat. Afterall, I’m not the problem here. He then announced, kalau macam itu, bas tak payah jalan lah! (if that’s the case, the bus will not move!). I can’t help but feel threatened. Why should I just give up my seat when ultimately, what's in my hand was a legitimate ticket issued by the staff of the bus company?

The girl in her twenties was joined by her elderly mother and a younger sister. They had bought all the seats in that particular row. Some of the passengers had given up and only a few more were still defending their seats. I had to decide. Someone must leave and I had to make a choice, unwillingly.

As I picked up my heavily loaded backpack, a young man was still arguing with the judge. The girl in her twenties saw me leaving and said, hah, dah settle dah! with a victorious look on her face, as if she had proven that I was the guilty one in this case and had been given the sentence I deserve. You could have, at the very least, thanked me.

On one hand, I felt that I've made a stupid decision. It did appear as if I’ve shamelessly given up my right to the world and proclaimed, nah, take it away from me, please! with a smile. Conscience - that was all I had at that point. I could have argued on with the judge but the thought of the elderly mother having to wait for the next bus in the humid and intoxicating condition at the platform or to leave without one of her children had me surrendering to an erroneous system. This is the very same system that had victimized many for the longest time. I know, for I’ve seen it happening for more than 10 years. A good kakak from another bus company, who later became a friend, had told me countless sad tales like this one.

Knowing that the next bus will be late as well, I ran upstairs to question the person-in-charge of the bus company’s counter. He looked more confused than I was and simply brushed off my complaint by saying, ah….ya ya. You ikut cakap itu konductor saja lah. (Yes, yes. You just follow what the conductor says). Amazing.

The next bus did come, around 1 am. The losers from the earlier episode had inevitably created some chaos in the bus again, due to the mismatching of seat numbers.

Obviously, the problem lies in the company’s governance. More specifically, the ticketing system. Being a well-received bus company specializing in this niche and lucrative route, it’s only wise to invest in a computerized system that will greatly reduce the amount of human errors like this. If other bus companies can do it, why can't they? Some might say that one shouldn’t expect much from a cheap ride, so take it or leave it. Of course, we are not asking for meals on board or personalized mobile entertainment. I'm sure efficiency is included in the price of the ticket, right? They are obviously not looking at the bigger picture as well. In my opinion, this is an important issue that should have been studied years ago. A good public transport system ensures progress in many other industries, including tourism. You should have seen that frustrated look of the tourists due to the delays and unclear details scribbled onto their tickets. Not a pretty face, I can assure you. I don't see them returning anytime soon too. And what's even sadder? That we are swarmed by frivolous matters that have been blown out of proportions instead. One seat, two tickets – that’s REAL confusion and a matter of fact. Now do something about it!

I reached Singapore later in the morning feeling completely exhausted and mentally beaten. The next few days were not any better but I survived. By planning my schedule and meals well, I'm sure I'll recover fast.

However, reading the bad news surrounding us these days has proven to be detrimental. I was, again, haunted by the lack of conscience and understanding among us. Believe in the truth, my friends. Believe that there are better ways to things. Believe that it'll take nothing but impossibility to divide us. And we shall emerge stronger and wiser than ever before.

In the process of writing this post, I felt that perhaps I should start another blog. HairyBerry's Tell-A-Bus-Tale, anyone?


ice said...

Do take care & rest well nic.

Selba said...

Can't believe that a mess up of seat tickets could happened. And how unprofessional are all those staff.

But anyhow, you were very kind and generous to let go you seat to that "rude" girl and it shows that you are a better person than her. Don't get irritated that you have done a good thing because I believe there's always a pay back in good or bad thing :)

Well, hope that you can catch up some good rest in this weekend, it's Friday! TGIF! Go give yourself a good treat.. some yummy food! :) And cheer up, 2010 might start not too smooth for you but just trust, it gonna be better, ok ;D

sc said...

oh dear, sounds horrible! i can imagine your exhaustion after a long holiday and have to face with such s**t. hope you feel better now? try First Coach next time, i always take that to Spore- pleasant and affordable (RM41?) ride everytime :)

ToyGirl said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. Summore right in the beginning of the new year. definitely a bummer. And that girl that 'scored' your seat, all I can say is karma. Such an ungrateful person. Hope you start to feel better soon. See you for the next K-session. Hugs!!

CUMI & CIKI said...

oh boy that TOTALLY sucks nic! to think you did the gentlemanly thing and that she smirked in ur face about being the 'wrong' party.. Chis!

anyway, who cares.. in my books, nic, you are ALWAYS the hero;) you can have my seat/lap anytime hairy! hehe :P

take care now.. don't stresssssss

babe_kl said...

awwww dat so terrible.

it's so sad after all these years there are still incidences like this, plus there are still so many touts around!

Jun said...

all i can do is shake my head in disbelief, for i hav realised the importance of conserving energy for more important things, like counting the number of stars in the sky, than to curse the F-ed up system in msia.

Tummythoz said...

Had that memorable experience before. Similar 'judgements' were passed but that time, a few guys attempted a contempt of court by retorting, 'Baik-lar. Semua tak yah balik!'

It ended with everyone being late as the bus was forced to wait for another to arrive to pick up the 'duplicates'.

Malaysia boleh (macam-macam).

J said...

Well, it's only the start of the year, and 2010 is a fresh slate!

I hope your year will be filled with more happy experiences vs. homicide inspiring ones...

Petite Lass said...

It's unfortunate to learn that you are one of the many victims. Take care, have a heaps of rest and eat more nutritious things to compensate hehe :)

ladyironchef said...

no, cannot start new blog! otherwise there's even lesser time to update your food entries! lol

Anonymous said...

This is a superior article as they all are. I tease been wondering wide this for some measure now. Its great to get this info. You are fete and balanced.

Nic (KHKL) said...

ice, thanks so much! ;D

selba, thank you so much! yeah, i did have a good weekend! had a relaxing brunch and a good run too! ;D and thanks for the motivation! i am certainly looking forward to 2010! ;D hope you are having a good year so far too! ;D

sc, thanks! am definitely feeling better now! and thanks for recommending first coach! ya know, i already booked 2 tickets from them last week! ;D cant wait to check it out.

toygirl, awwww, thanks so much! hey, we shall do a k session this cny ya!!! i cant wait! must go learn new songs d...hehe

cumi & ciki, thank you very much for the kind words!!!! really appreciate it! woah, me is your hero ar? *blush* u rawk, babe!

babe_kl, agree! and nothing has been done to upgrade the system! i'm sure a computerized ticketing system will solve a lot of the obvious problems.

Nic (KHKL) said...

jun, maybe that's why our nation likes to eat. to conserve more energy...hehehe...but i agree with you that we need a system's long overdue!!!!

tummythoz, ya lor, everyone should just retaliate and stay on the bus. too bad we couldn't stand united that day. i just feel that this drama shouldnt have begun because the cause is such an obvious error! cis! macam-macam boleh, kan? hehehe...

j, thanks so much for the words! i certainly am looking forward to 2010, be it good or bad. it motivates me to work (and eat) harder! ;D

petite lass, thanks so much for the kind words!!! will definitely rest more and eat well. ;D i hope your new year's been good! here's wishing you a great year ahead. ;D

ladyironchef, hehehehehehehehe! again, u have just reminded me of founder's bkt! i soooo need to blog more often. or eat less...hehehehehehe...

anonymous, thanks so much! i sure hope that i'm balanced cos the world is mad enough right now and i wont wanna be disoriented. ;D

qwazymonkey said...

Sighs! malaysia memang boleh

Nic (KHKL) said...

qwazymonkey, to quote tummythoz, (macam-macam)...hehehe

Life for Beginners said...

Hey, bro, I believe 2010 may be our (yours and mine) best year yet. The beginning may be a bit rocky, but it only serves to point us out the ready pitfalls and challenges to overcome. And you, my friend, can and shall overcome them.

In the meantime, we'd be around to cheer you on (and in some instances, entertain and annoy you lah). Rock on!

Nic (KHKL) said...

kenny, thanks for the words, bro! am certainly prepared to face the best year yet! ;D keep me annoyed, please!!! ;D hehehehe....