A bus trip from Mahdia I will never forget
May 4, 2002
Letters on despair
Last week I undertook a return trip to Mahdia using public transportation the much touted Mahdia Express. It is not a trip I am likely to forget any time soon.
Apart from waiting for more than two hours for the bus to fill and stopping at each and every place that the bus could conceivably stop at, the first leg of the trip was uneventful.
It was on the return journey that I experienced 'chills'. The bus had not long left the mining area, when some 'gentlemen' sitting near the back lighted up their spliffs (marijuana cigarettes), although the bus had a few 'No Smoking' signs. When passengers complained, the smokers said that whoever did not like it, could get off the bus. There were persons with small children on the bus. The driver did not comment. This was not because he was afraid, but because, as was later learned, he was a friend of theirs.
Pretty soon, as on the first leg of the journey, passengers began requesting that the bus stop at Auntie This or Uncle That so that they could drop off or collect items. But the longest and most alarming, was when the bus stopped at a location to allow a couple to collect payment for a quantity of 'weed' (marijuana) they had dropped off earlier. Passengers waited for over 15 minutes while they quarrelled over why the money was not being paid. Everyone in the bus could hear them and knew what they were quarrelling over. No one seemed shocked, no one seemed to care.
As the journey continued, the now high smokers began to urge the driver to speed up. Many passengers protested to no avail. The driver "put his foot down" as they say. "Fyah! Bun!," the smokers shouted, after each skidding turn. There was nothing to do but pray. That I am alive to write this letter is testimony that prayer works. There was no option of getting off the bus; as you are in the middle of nowhere and not likely to get any other transportation.
At Linden, it became obvious why the blatant behaviour will continue unchecked. The driver stopped to chat with the police and took orders for chicken. He even carried on a slightly bawdy banter with the female police officer, who described herself as ˘Babylon÷.
A report has been made to a member of the regional authority at Mahdia, who has promised to look into the matter, but clearly there is need for some police intervention.
(name and address supplied)