Story time! Weirdest moments on public transit around the world

Yesterday, I was on my way to work as usual, standing idly next to a Dunkin Donuts kiosk in North Station, waiting for my train. An elderly lady sporting headphones and cigarette breath approached me and screamed hoarsely, “I’m gonna put your friend IN A BOX! TODAY!” When I looked around, startled, wondering who she meant by “your friend,” she leaned in close and yelled in my face, “THAT’S A COFFIN!” Then she walked away. Now, I don’t consider myself a superstitious person by any means, but not gonna lie, that one kind of freaked me out. I am happy to report that a full day has gone by and my friends are all still kicking.

Just a day in the life of an American public transit commuter.

I’ve had some rather weird experiences on buses and trains in other countries as well, and I think being outside my geographical and cultural comfort zone just added a whole other level to the strangeness. This isn’t a post about things that just seemed odd because I was a clueless foreigner and didn’t get it. This is a post about moments where I felt like okaythis is REALLY bizarre and I’m PRETTY SURE it’s not just bizarre to me.

Taghazout, Morocco, June 2015

After a day by the beach in the sunny hippy Moroccan surf town of Taghazout, three friends and I boarded a crowded bus for a half hour ride to Agadir. It was hard to see what with all the people packed on the bus, and hard to hear what with my Darija level being pretty basic, but there seemed to be some sort of altercation going on at the front of the bus between two teenage boys and the driver. One of them must have not paid his fare, or for whatever reason the driver did not want him on the bus.

Then a man in a neon vest that said “Agent de Controle” appeared on the scene. (This doesn’t exactly translate as “Agent of Control,” but that’s what my brain spontaneously registered it as, and I think this story’s a little funnier if you translate it that way.) He argued loudly with the two teenagers, and they stepped off the bus but kept shouting at him. A small crowd of young men had gathered outside the bus by this time, bickering loudly. Some of them seemed to be on the side of the driver and the Agent of Control and some were on the side of the fare-hopping teen.

Then the Agent of Control took off his jacket and handed it to the bus driver. An internationally recognized signal that this ish is about to get REAL.

Outside the bus, the bickering had degenerated into a giant shouting match, and the Agent of Control flung himself enthusiastically into it. And then it was a full on brawl. They were all shoving each other- the Agent of Control and the young men on his side versus the troublemaking teenager and his sidekicks. No one was actually hurting each other. No punches were thrown. There was just a lot of shoving and shouting.

Then they were all running, in a pack, shoving and shouting while running. They disappeared behind a building and reappeared a few minutes later, still shoving and shouting. They made a few laps around the building. Shoving and shouting. While the bus driver and all of the approximately fifty million sardine-packed passengers silently, calmly watched.

And then the brawl died down as quickly and mysteriously as it had started. The Agent of Control stepped back onto the bus, a little sweaty and out of breath, got his jacket back, waved goodbye to the bus driver, walked away, and we were on the road. A row of teenage boys in the back of the bus drummed and sang us all the way to Agadir. All in all, not a bad day trip. But seriously… what just happened?? What was that?

Paris, France, February 2012

When the man got on my metro car at Chatelet, he looked like any other Parisian commuter at rush hour. Thirties, short brown hair, glasses, nondescript clothes. He was holding a book. He did not sit down.

He opened the book, delicately cleared his throat, and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to deliver a poetry reading.”

That’s so nice, I thought. On the Paris metro, it’s not uncommon to hear a musical performance in your subway car, a hat always passed quickly around the car before the next stop. So why not a poetry reading? How artsy and sophisticated. How French. I caught a glimpse of the book’s title. Poesie. Poetry.

The man cleared his throat again and began to read. A few lines in, I wrinkled my brow. What? Did he really just say what I think he just said? He kept reading. Yes he did, he sure did. Ouch, my ears, my ears! This was the dirtiest, most vulgar poem I had ever heard in my life. Thank goodness it was not a long poem.

He looked up. “Which shall I read next, ladies and gentlemen? Page 18 or 43?” He looked around expectantly. I did too, to see everyone else’s reactions. The tourists were chatting with each other in their languages and tuning him out. The French people were pretending he wasn’t there. They didn’t look shocked or offended. Just bored and mildly annoyed. Suddenly he was looking straight at me. “Mademoiselle, what will it be? Page 18 or 43?”

“Euhh… euhh… quarante-trois,” I stammered. What else could I say? Maybe page forty-three would be a poem about, I don’t know, daffodils. But his smile slowly spread into a wicked grin. “Page 43! Excellent choice. Excellent choice.” He flipped the pages. Well, merde.

This poem was, if possible, even more offensive than the last one. And keep in mind I wasn’t even understanding more than half of it because it’s not like they put words like that in high school French textbooks.

“Palais Royal, Musee du Louvre,” announced a female voice over the intercom, and the train slowed to a stop. “Have a lovely evening, ladies and gentlemen,” the man said, and he was gone. But not before I caught another glimpse of the book’s title. Not “poesie.” Pornesie.

Paris, France, January 2010

This one isn’t so much weird as scary. You know how that announcer voice in train stations always tells you to mind the gap between the train and the platform? Well, I was at Gare du Nord and there was a big gap and I didn’t mind it. And I actually fell in. I was carrying heavy suitcases and I lost my balance trying to lift them on the train and… actually, never mind how it happened. I fell in the gap, you guys. This is a real thing that actually happens to people. So, yeah, mind the gap.

Photo dump! Spain, Jordan, Italy, Kenya, Dubai, Paris, and lots of Morocco!

I kept up with this blog till November and then let it fall to the wayside… for a couple of reasons. One, exam time came around and I was suddenly consumed with grading… although also with buses and trains and planes and adventures. Two, as you probably know if you’re reading this, I got engaged! And all my internet time was taken over by pinterest, weddingwire, and theknot. But since it’s spring break and I’m already bored and I’ve been missing Morocco lately, here is a pile of my fave photos from winter and spring 2015!

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December in Ceuta: Twinkly lights on orange trees

 

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View from a friend’s rooftop in Fez, Morocco

 

Morocco’s Mediterranean coast is beautiful. So blue!

 

 

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Fresh grilled sardines, shrimp, and bissara (a soup made from fava beans) at a cafe by the water in M’diq

 

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Argan trees in southern Morocco

 

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One of my favorite cafes in Tetouan

 

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

 

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Kenya: a cute little baby warthog crosses the road in front of our car

 

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Chefchaouen: Blue(ish) town in the Rif Mountains

 

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The Alhambra, Granada

 

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Alhambra again

 

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Sevilla, Spain

 

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So I had a chance to go (back) to Barcelona, this time with a dear friend, and it was beautiful. Healing and redemption and life and broken pieces put back together, yay.

 

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I tried to capture a photo that would do the Sagrada Familia some amount of justice. I failed. Seriously, if you are ever in Barcelona, don’t let the long ticket lines dissuade you. This was so worth it.

 

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A riad (dar?)

 

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I started noticing that my ring matches stuff in Morocco. Like the Oudaias in Rabat!

 

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… and the Mediterranean!

 

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On International Women’s Day, the Moroccan rail company (ONCF) handed out cards and roses to every woman who bought a train ticket!

 

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Amman at night

 

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We happened to be in Jordan right after ISIS burned the Jordanian pilot. These signs were all over Amman. “Life your head high, you’re Jordanian.”

 

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Mount Nebo. Checkin’ out that Promised Land.

 

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Floating in the Dead Sea was an interesting experience! I was surprised by how narrow the Dead Sea was. Probably not a smart idea to float across, though…

 

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Desert sunset. Wadi Rum, Jordan.

 

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Petra, Jordan

 

 

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“A rose red city half as old as time…”

 

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We’ll always have Paris

 

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A stop along the way from Ouarzazate to the Sahara

 

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wind and sand

 

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We spent a night in this tent in the Sahara. There was a windstorm and I was a big baby and thought our tent was going to collapse. But it held up!

 

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On a bus heading way way down south to Essaouira

 

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Essaouira, Morocco

 

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Annnnddd more Essaouira!

 

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Hungry street cats hoping the tourists will drop some tajine crumbs
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Got to spend Easter with an awesome friend and her cousins in southern Italy! They fed us and fed us and fed us. It was basically food heaven.

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Rome!

 

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Taroudant, Morocco