My bus this morning was so crowded, people were sandwiched together tighter than pickles in a Strubs jar.
The advantage of such crowding is that notions of personal space go out the window. At first glance, this might not seem like an advantage, but if all passengers remain as calm and polite as possible, you can overhear some fascinating conversations.
This morning, for example, two Korean girls in their twenties, and one male friend, were practicing for an English language test. (I only know they were Korean because of the pin attached to one of the backpacks sharply wedged against my lower back like the most uncomfortable Obus Forme ever.)
I figured they were practicing for an English test because their conversation went something like this:
Girl 1: “The woman in the led car.”
Girl 2 (reading from sheet of paper): “Red car.”
Girl 1: “The woman in the r-r-red car turn reft.”
Girl 2: “Turned left.”
Girl 1: “You please repeat please.”
Girl 2: “The woman in the red car turned left.”
You get the gist.
They were practicing so diligently, no time for chit chat, that I assumed a pop quiz awaited them at their destination.
The guy travelling with them didn’t participate except to repeat the name “No Frills” over and over, followed by a deep-voiced chuckle — must translate into something HILarious in Korean.
One of the girls seemed to be getting frustrated with her progress so I wanted to let them know they were doing a good job (much better than I’d be doing in Korean, certainly). But I didn’t want to make them self-conscious about practicing aloud.
I also wasn’t sure how to burst in on their conversation. Before this whole good deed thing, talking to any stranger on any bus is something I’d never have considered — unless maybe the person was engulfed in flames and I had to ask the driver for water. (Now that would be a good deed.)
The fact that we were standing close enough that I could practically tell which brand of conditioner they used, actually helped a little. So I waited for the bus to pull into the subway station and I turned to the girls (Mr. No Frills was still happily chanting away) and asked if they were studying English.
They nodded yes and giggled together for what seemed like 10 minutes. I told them they were doing very well with their English sentences and wished them good luck with their studies. More giggling ensued (stand-up comics must love gigs in Korea) but they seemed to appreciate the compliment.
Why do I now have the sudden urge to head to No Frills?….