Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shameless anger

I’ve noticed that whenever Lithuanians are a bit pissed, they don’t do any effort to hide their dissatisfaction. This kind of behavior easily tickles my laughing muscles, which often makes the whole situation even worse. Yesterday evening I stood at the bus stop close to the dormitory I live in. It’s always kind of packed there, so I prefer to have my discount card and coin money ready without having to dig into my rather unfeminine velcro purse while just having a hint of moon light. As long as I’ve lived here, my inner city bus tickets have always cost me one Lita, which equals 30 eurocents. My bus arrived and I stepped towards the bus driver, a lady, 40+. She wore an antique pair of glasses and had some high cheekbones with a fair layer of I-get-my-share-of-sweetness. 

When wanting to obtain a bus ticket one has to place the money in a little movable shelf which is integrated in a plastic wannabe-glass window. As soon as the money is placed on the anti-slip coaster, which once was ocean blue but turned into an indefinable brownish shade now, the little shelf has to be pushed towards the bus driver. Normally, she’ll then get the money, print you a teeny-weeny bus ticket, pushes the little bill through the shelf towards you and then the deal is done: you’re the proud owner of a Kaunas public transport ticket with which you can travel from one side of the city to another for only 30 eurocents. Yet, I didn’t manage to complete these steps straight ahead. 

While she hit the pedal to the metal I tried to keep up standing straight while showing my student-ID through the wannabe-window, which would get me my 50% discount. She pushed the shelf back as hard as she could, with my money still in it. She furthermore shouted something incomprehensible, but  it surely wasn’t anything to comfort a poor Dutchman desperately trying not to fall. I frowned and pushed the shelf with my one Lita coin towards her again. She screamed and made me think of Mrs. Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s classic Matilda. I asked her in a friendly tone what was wrong. She ignored me. There were some women in their early thirties standing relatively close to me. I asked them what to do in order to obtain a ticket. Helpless; none of them spoke one single word of English. I wonder if a crash course in Lithuanian could have rescued me out of this situation though. Eventually one women with overly manicured finger nails tapped onto the plastic shield. The number she pointed at stated 2.40 Litas. Only then I noticed that the price for a bus ticket had been raised. The discount price stated 1.20 Litas and was thus increased by a big fat six eurocents. 

Now I understood my confusion. The stickers stating the new prices were printed on the same old yellowish paper as the old ones, so no wonder I didn’t see a distinction straight away. While the bus driver hit the pedal once more, I made a little balance dance while digging into my backpack in search for a small 0.20 cents coin. All I found was 0.50 cents, and thus 1.50 went into the shelf which I carefully and with a sense of hope on my face, pushed towards the fanatic driver once again. Finally, her nails scratched the coins from the brownish coaster. The ticket machine made a robot-like sounds and there it was, my very own ticket, including the change: 0.10 cents. Apparently she charged my stupidity with 0.20 cents which she just kept for herself. She can surely buy a small onion from that money and I hope it’ll make her fart so loud that she can burst out in laughter – just for her to notice how liberating the opposite of anger may feel. 

I found myself a free seat in the bus and quickly watched the same showpiece once again. Five young lads entered the bus. They were either very cheerful because of the alcohol in their blood, or because they had just played some basketball; that’s also possible. All of them quickly dropped the money in the shelf and went to the back of the bus to giggle on. They were however also not aware of the price change that came in force since the first of march. The bus driver started to scream, but the plastic did a good share of dimming her noise. The bus stood still and she suddenly came out. The wannabe-window appeared to be a wannabe glass door as well. She screamed through the whole bus, demanding the boys to each pay their 0.20 cents, or else she’d kick them all out (at least, that’s what I understood from her body language).  With a big smile on their faces the guys one by one dropped by with their coins. Smiles also appeared on the faces of the other bus passengers. A rare sight, so many strangers, smiling! Lithuanians! Even though I’ve been living here for a while now, this country keeps on surprising me, and that’s exactly what I love so much about residing here. 

The passengers’ moods were rather good but the bus driver still seemed a bit frustrated. When we rushed towards the Southern part of Kaunas, far away from any bus stop, she pushed the button that opened the automatic bus doors. A wave of wind screamed through the bus, refreshing it from its rather stuffy aroma.  I could almost see the moist of the bus driver’s anger steaming up her plastic shield. She rushed by a few stops without stopping, and I fanatically started to search for a stop button since my bus stop was in sight. No buttons to be found, so I stood up just to give the driver a hint. She stopped, and even nicer, she didn’t even flatten me in between the automatic doors when I got off. 

I walked into the darkness and fulfillingly looked back as soon as the bus accelerated again. Pity the driver didn’t look at me anymore, otherwise she would have earned a smile and wave. Interesting how people can get so furious. I can imagine the language barrier wasn’t in my advantage, yet, the driver just seemed to scream to everybody not being aware of the ticket price change. Well, this was surely not the first time something like this happened to me. Some people here seem just not afraid showing their deepest annoyances. They probably have their reasons, but I can’t help it’s rather entertaining from time to time. My smile then slowly but steadily transformed in my neutral focused look again, about to discover a little lesson: do not listen to a dramatic piece of Prokofiev on full sound while walking through a dark neighborhood, because you’ll consider every random guy walking around there being a potential criminal/rapist/anything else negative. Everything turned out to be fine in the end, luckily.

 Old vs. new ticket

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