Monday, September 24, 2007

Traveller's Tales..Travelling on Greyhound buses.

This segment was aired on 20th August 2007 on the RSI 93.8 Live programme, Travellers Tales. In this segment I was asked by Yvonne Gomez whether I had experienced any potentially dangerous or difficult situations during my extensive travels. Well, there really were quite a few stretching all the way back to the mid 60's in Bangkok ,then later in Medan,Indonesia and elsewhere. ( I will cover these in future posts )
But owing to the lack of time, I recounted one particular encounter I had with a rough and tumble character who was seated behind me in the Greyhound coach in December 1992. My wife D2 and younger daughter D4 were seated in front of me. I was alone in a double seat similar to this huge caucasian who looked pretty much like one of those bad men from western movies. As soon as the journey began in the night,I settled into my seat comfortably. We were heading to the Grand Canyon area from Las Vegas. I was hoping to catch some 40 winks as we would soon be in near desert country...pretty dark outside and nothing much to see anyway. As I leaned back to rest my head on the seat top, I found to my utter shock and dismay that the guy behind had placed both his legs and smelly boots over my seat ,on either side of my ears ! It was obviously an act meant to provoke a confrontation.
I turned sideways to have a glance at him . He had a kind of Texan hat pulled low over his forehead, perhaps pretending to be asleep. After assessing the situation, I discounted complaining to the driver as that may be the start of an explosive incident that can only end in any number of ways.....and all bad, may even be fatal in the extreme scenario.
But I had to do something out of respect to myself. I have never in my entire life run away from
louts and bullies, no not even to this day. And I've encountered many, both home and abroad.
So, I whispered to my dear ones not to worry, whatever will happen. I will "handle him properly".
Greyhound coaches make intermitten stops for toilet breaks and some for refreshments lasting about 15-20 minutes. At the next refreshment stop, I exited the coach and waited for this chap at the doorway. Once on level ground, I introduced myself in my most charming,friendly manner, " Hi there! I'm from Singapore. My name is Dicky." As I spoke gently I offered my hand in handshake. He took my hand and shook it warmly. Good sign, I heaved! " Can I buy you a coffee or something?", I asked.
Then he spoke, "Sure!" Another Good sign, I breathed easier.
And we began to chat over coffee.
I asked if he had ever visited Singapore. No, never.
I told him if he had any questions or comments to just shoot.
He said," You speak very good English for a Chinese person. Where did you learn to speak such good English? Do all the people in your country speak like you? "
When we returned to the coach, we chatted a little more ,having opened up.
He was no longer the brutish lout earlier but was a perfect gentleman!
I recounted this story many times in many sharing sessions.
All it took to turn a potentially ugly situation around was my offering of warm,genuine,open friendship over a cup of coffee.
He had no reason to decline as I wasn't his enemy and a total stranger from a faraway land.
I opted for the non-confrontational approach that time.
It worked.

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