Blog 34: Boys Peeing on Your Happiness II

Trip Start Dec 10, 2009
Trip End Jan 14, 2010

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Flag of India  , Karnataka,
Thursday, January 7, 2010

If you just happened to start reading this blog midstream (yes that was a urine pun), read blog 32 for the reason to this title as this blog is the second of a three part series.

I have said it before, but it bears worth repeating: you do not typically sleep on anything with the name "sleeper" attached to the front of it. If the name connoted truth, the name of the bus would state something like: “Smash Your Face Into the Ceiling/Trampoline Non Sleeper Express” (this happens when you “sleep” in the back of the bus) or “The Annoying, Long Legged German Behind You, Who Will Not Let You Recline (because of his aforementioned long legs) Even Though You Paid For A Reclining Seat—Non Sleeper Express” or my personal un-favorite, “The Sweat Box, Garlic Halitosis, Reeking Hot Breath, Booger Mobile—Non Sleeper, You Want to Vomit Express”

            We did not sleep much on the bus en route to Mangalore, but at around 3 a.m. our circadian rhythms called out to us, and we fell into a deep sleep for a few hours.  Here is the other problem while traveling—deep sleep!  Why? because you are in a foreign country with names of places you don't recognize being called out by a person whose first language is Hindi, not English, and that is difficult enough to understand while awake, let alone while sleeping… but especially while in a deep sleep when you hear nothing and the towns being called out plague your dreams like bad Thai karaoke. 

            Most stops are not even yelled out in a mysterious language, but are magically known by everyone on the bus but yourself.  This means that at any given time you have no idea where you are and when your particular stop may be coming, especially since you are rarely on time and almost always running behind schedule.

            Back to the deep sleep problem: we were awakened at 7 a.m. (our intended arrival time for Mangalore) by a bunch of frantic European girls telling us it was time to get off the bus because it was the last stop.  In a mad dash, I jumped from our bed and struggled to find my sandals and glasses while Annie stuffed our sleeping bag into its sack.  Since the bus only stops for a few minutes, we had to move quickly or our bags would end up on the road (at their intended destination) while we drove away to a wrong destination pleading with the driver to stop the $%# bus.

            I rushed to the front of the bus to tell the driver to hold on while we readied ourselves, only to be told, “Yours is the next stop!”

            A false alarm; they happen all the time.  I’m guilty of a few of them myself.

            At the next stop we disembarked from the bus and found ourselves in Mangalore, red-eyed and not quite bushy-tailed, ready to take on another one of my un-favorite things: negotiating a price for a tuk tuk or taxi. 

            Ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you I love to haggle and have no problem bargaining for the bottom line of whatever it is I’m going after.  Haggling over the price of a marble elephant in Agra is fun; haggling over the price of a taxi at 7 a.m. after getting less than four hours sleep on a twelve hour bus ride is not the bee’s knees.

I must momentarily digress to state that just hailing a tuk tuk and negotiating a price is no big deal… that is, when you do not have your luggage to contend with and you’re not looking for a bathroom or when you know your location in the world and are not completely dependent upon people that want nothing more than to take advantage of your displacement while you are at your most vulnerable state.  That is the world you encounter when waking up in a part of the world that speaks a foreign language, looks, smells, and tastes different than anything you can realistically prepare for and it is a world that, at times, feels out of control.  Your job is to retain a semblance of control (it is not real control but if you fake it, it will be enough to get you where you want to go) while also managing your possessions, time, and well being.  It is not difficult, but it is, once again, at times, stressful.  Here is what it usually looks like: you step off the bus and are surrounded and inundated with twenty tuk tuk drivers yelling out for you to pick them over their competitors, while also trying to grab hold of your bags and load them into their three-wheeled fiery contraption of a vehicle that uncomfortably seats two small Americans or ten large Indians
           They sometimes grab at you to get your attention; some get in your face and do not leave that position until Assertive Mark tells them to back off; other times they follow you through the streets until you reach your guesthouse; and still other times they are just peachy-keen and very helpful. 

To combat their assertiveness, Assertive Mark comes out to part the sea of chaos and confusion.  There is no one way of dealing with the army of tuk tuk drivers vying for your attention after you descend into their midst, but one way really seems to work well for me.  This method involves getting off the bus and picking a driver immediately.  I point at the dude I want and ask him for a price to take us to the hotel we want, which we found by perusing the Lonely Planet Guide just moments earlier.  This method allows a person to take control of the situation instantly and then you are able to implement the next stage of this attack: the bidding war. 

When a foreigner sees white skin they see money.  This is not a generalization; this is fact.  One tuk tuk driver once told Annie and me, “When I see you, I see rich.”  Another told me just the other day, “You look like money.”  At the time I was wearing shorts that hadn’t been laundered in a week and a t-shirt that could have only matched in the mind of a fifth grader that grew up in the 80s who thought florescent was a color and should be paired with zebra zooba pants—think MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”

Anyway, the bidding war is simple.  After picking your driver you ask for a price to go where you want to go.  The driver sees “rich” and generally inflates the normal rate a local would pay going the same distance anywhere from 10% to 1000%, depending on the day, season, time of night, holiday, or just by looking at you and what you are wearing.  I get his price and ask him to come down to what my gut is telling me is fair.  Most drivers negotiate but there are plenty that think you are willing to pay anything and remain firm on their price.  Therefore, I create market conditions by loudly announcing the fare being offered.  I then ask the other drivers to do their best to beat it.  In Agra I got a firm 950 rupee rate ($19 USD) for a day tour of the Taj Mahal to 250 rupees ($5.25) by enacting a bidding war amongst about 30 tuk tuk drivers all salivating for work.  It got so heated one driver ratted out one low bidder by telling us that the low bidder was a drunk and had earlier been drinking whiskey while driving his rickshaw.  We laughed and picked the second lowest bid.  Sometimes you pay a little extra to not have your tuk tuk driver drunk and peeing on the Taj Mahal.

            To be continued…
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Mom on

They say we need balance. It isn't all good, but that's life. I have enjoyed your stories and that you have found a way to laugh at even the freeky situations. You've seen and experienced what most of us will only read about. I know you love it there and I'm happy you have been able to experience all of it.

456554 on

thats gross

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