Warnings in October 2007

It was a busy month. I’d traveled quite a lot, and my back was killing me. I’m not large or tall, but my back must not be normal. It just doesn’t fit into seats right. These days, busses look modern. They look much better than those smelly sleepers with fully reclined seats that used to navigate the roads, but I loved those busses. Back in the day, I used to travel to a factory just outside of Dongyang, sometimes as much as five times a week. I smelled like smoke, was overwhelmed by stinky feet, and had to constantly be on the lookout for shoe thieves, but my back was in heaven. I took a certain bus so often that the driver started saving a seat for me. I saw a lot of strange things on that bus. Now that it’s travel season, I warn you to expect to see your own fair share.

I was on that bus one time when this guy suddenly popped up and started giving a speech to everyone. He challenged anyone to beat him at a game of pencils. (It’s like Three Card Monty; the kind you see on a lot of city streets only done with pencils.) Nobody paid any attention to him. Most knew it was a trick. He was very slow, and it looked easy to guess. Finally, one guy got up and tried. The trickster lost. Another guy got up and won, then a third and a fourth. From the start an old man in the back was yelling at the guy to shut up. He said he was tired and had no time for games. He had a heavy accent. Even though he was losing, the young guy kept making fun of him. Eventually, when the trickster won, the old man in the back of the bus exploded, telling him how rude he was for stealing people’s money. The old man would beat him at his game. He pulled out a huge wad of cash and said he wasn’t afraid. The old man grabbed the pencils and started losing heavily. The young guy was really pushing him. Other people on the bus began to bet and win. The old dude looked like he was going to break down, was sweating profusely, and his hands were shaking like leaves. The trickster was making quite a lot and was urging other people to bet. The guy across from me threw in what looked like was his only bit of cash. He picked red like everyone else. Everyone on the bus was mad with excitement. When his hand opened, the old dude had somehow switched to green. At the next stop, a huge group of people got off the bus. There were close to twenty people in on the scam. Only the last guy to lose remained lain out on his seat. The ‘old fool’ smoothly took off his coke bottle glasses as he descended the steps. I smoothly eased back into my comfortable lounge.

By Tim Hoerle