Monday, December 04, 2006

Buses in Taipei

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I have the sneaking suspicion that either the bus drivers in Taipei are out to maim their passengers, or they just spend a little too much time playing video games.

With the recent move to the new office in Neihu, I have had the opportunity to ride the bus to the office with increasing frequency. While there are occasionally a few friendly bus drivers that conscientiously operate their piece of heavy machinery in such a way as to minimize the amount of jostling that their passengers undergo, the other 99% seem to really hate the people that keep getting on and off their bus.

I have seen cases where the bus drivers accelerate/decelerate suddenly for no obvious reason, take turns at breakneck speeds, and even start driving off before their passengers have fully boarded/alighted. This is exacerbated by the fact that the drivers have large comfortable seats that have independent shocks to smooth their rides.

The funny thing is that while this would probably never be considered even remotely acceptable in the US (at least on those few occasions when I've had the opportunity to ride the bus), for the most part, this seems to be the norm here in Taipei. Old people literally being thrown into other people's laps doesn't even so much as solicit a dirty look or a sigh.

I'm still trying to figure out if the problem is really with the drivers, or if I've just become too soft after living in the West for most of my life.

One cool thing that I have seen time and time again is a profound respect for the elderly. Every time somebody that looks even somewhat frail gets on the bus, at least one young person - usually the one sitting closest to the entrance - will immediately stand up and offer their seat to them. In the year that we have been living in Taiwan, there has not been a single exception to this phenomenon, which just gives me a warm fuzzy. I have always tried to be courteous and polite, but seeing this sort of behavior makes it seem like it's less of a choice and more of a moral imperative.

Keep it up, Taiwan!
(The courtesy part - not necessarily the crazy bus driver thing)

1 comment:

Nel Pastel said...

Yeesh! It sounds a lot like Mexico City, especially the "combis." They're basically little, gutted VW-style buses with tiny benches welded to the back and sides used for independent bus service. I don't think I've ever been in one and not been bounced around or shot off my seat. I know for sure I've fallen over at least a couple of times when the driver would take off before I'd had a chance to sit down.

It's fun! I just try not to look at the traffic and pray a lot.

It's nice to know there is still respect for the elderly. It really seems to have been lost in the U.S.