On of the most important requirements for a fulfilling nightlife on a budget is knowing your night buses. There is nothing as discouraging as finding yourself in the middle of the night stranded in a foreign city
(or one you are not yet completely familiar with) not knowing how to get home, or where you exactly are for that matter.
It may not be as dramatic in Bratislava, as in New York, or London, but still – it ain’t pleasant. Especially in the winter, when you know you have to get to work the next day early in the morning. I think I don’t have to go on – we’ve all been there.
So after doing some research on the matter using google maps (which is not so easy for Bratislava, because the information on public transport doesn’t seem to be quite updated there), on one warm and pleasant night we boarded the night bus to Ružinov at its very first stop Hodžovo námestie.
We were not alone by far. Since it was one of the first warm nights, quite a few night life enthusiasts (many of them foreigners) were already waiting impatiently for the night bus to arrive, since it was a little bit late. But on such a pleasant night, ten minutes is not a big deal.
By the time we reached the second stop, the true adventure of our night ride home started. For some reason the driver didn’t stop on the designated bus stop, but about seven metres before. Some people got off; he closed the doors and was ready to leave. However outside, a young man frenetically waving his hands and running made him stop and open the door again in order to get on the bus.
“Why did you stop so far from the bus stop?” -enquired the young man breathing heavily.
“You “$”%$% ^&*% &*”!!!
[Here I have really a problem publishing what the driver actually said – but please, feel free to insert the choice of the most vulgar and offensive four letter words you can think of]
“Next time move your $£%^%” ass, how long should I wait here for your noble arrival? Don’t you know I have to stick to the timetable? And now you even dare to open that %&% mouth of yours at me?”
The young man in question was nonetheless not an easily intimidated type and bravely answered:
“Firstly, if you didn’t want to wait for me you should have stopped on the designated place and not seven metres away, and secondly I would like to know this bus’s registration number in order to complain about your attitude!”
This just got the bus driver worked up. He started to shout something in the sense, that this young man should stop bothering him immediately, because it is strictly forbidden to talk to him while he is driving; and if he’s not going to stop bothering him, he will call the police and have him arrested.
The young man, in spite of this, kept his calm and his grounds repeating his claim, asking for the bus number firmly but politely, agreeing to explain the whole matter to the police.
I think I should mention here, that the general crowd in the bus did not seem too disturbed by this scene – I saw some of the people explaining to the foreigners what was going on (as was I translating to my boyfriend).
A young girl with dreadlocks in the front of the bus offered her opinion that the driver was probably high on weed, since he had parked for ten minutes at the terminal before Hodžovo námestie and when she first entered the bus there, it smelled of smoke.
At this point, another man from the back of the bus came running, shouting loudly to defend the bus driver against that lousy young rascal – How he dare indeed bother the good man while he is driving and cause such a commotion?! (I have to add he seemed quite tongue-tired, I am not sure whether this was due to consumption or it was his normal way of speaking).
And suddenly – who would expect that? – also an arbiter rose from the bus crowd. This man looked equally truly rightfully angered, as he was loud.
He scolded first the man from the back of the bus – for interfering with the argument when he did not see how this situation actually started, then he shouted at the bus driver for being vulgar to the young man, and in the end – just to be fair, he equally loudly chastised the young man for talking to the driver while driving… With wild gestures the arbiter chased the man from the back of the bus back to his seat, making sure he is shouting always louder than him to maintain discipline. Then he ran back to the front of the bus to continue the argument with the other too.
But other passengers did not want to be left out from the action: A man in his fifties, obviously tired and emotional - probably coming home from his favourite pub, who was by now dozing off on his seat suddenly stood up, and as if from a pulpit started giving the rest of a bus crew a lecture on politics. Since it was quite hard to understand him (because of the level of his intoxication, and he was also not so good at maintaining eye contact with the audience), but from what I could get he was praising the former Communist government over the current one. One of his main arguments was:
“The Communists – they were good Christians! They respected the Bible immensely…”
At the same time that the preacher awakened, another elderly man got on the bus – he must have been partying even harder, because he really had trouble standing up. However he was not at all discouraged by his condition and refused to sit (although the bus was not so full) and rather clang to the pole next to the door. He was more hanging, than standing, constantly sliding, or falling to his knees – but he kept going on like this, never giving up.
The rest of the passengers, mostly young people, who started first shyly winking at each other and smiling, watching the performance now turned to openly laughing. Some of them even started adding some comments here and there. I have to say some of us were laughing so hard tears started rolling down our faces and we were, well not rolling on the floor, but definitely on our seats…
A girl sitting alone across the isle on a double seat unexpectedly stood up and shouted on the whole bus: “People calm down please! I am now really scared to go home like this! Why is everyone shouting?”
“Don’t worry”, I told her. “I will sit next to you. I think they are not dangerous; they just seem to need to get something of their chests.”
As it turned out we were getting of on the same stop as she, so I kept her company, but she was still rolling her eyes with fear.
The falling down gentleman finally decided to get off the bus – but not without offering his own opinion on the political situation:
“Fickovia!” – he addressed us repeatedly. “This all is your fault! Yours and Fico’s!!!” and then he jumped of the bus stairs, surprisingly gracefully considering his state. He was obviously very pleased with himself.
We all continued our bus ride merrily, laughing at the performers and the preacher, the fearful girl scolding us from time to time: “Stop laughing! Don’t encourage the lunatics!”
By this time the bus passengers formed something of a group spirit, most saying goodbye when getting off.
I have not taken such a fun ride home since, but I have high hopes for the summer when the weather gets hotter. The only problem is most of my friends do not want to take the night bus and insist on sharing a cab. What a shame…