And Then the Bus Caught Fire
Earlier this week I was in a bus heading to Tiznit for a meeting. The trip would take about 30-40 minutes, depending upon how many people we dropped off along the way, and I happily sat down and zoned out. About ten minutes or so into the trip I began to smell smoke. I glanced around the cabin – no one seemed to notice anything, or if they did they weren't all that worried.
We pulled over to let someone unload their bags, a few extras piling in as the bus idled. Moving forward, the bus had trouble getting into gear, and a nasty grinding sound came from the engine. The driver shut it down and rebooted, taking a peek at the engine well beside his chair and exchanging a few words with the assistant nearby.
I inspected the bus again – it was by no means new, but I'd certainly seen worse. Most of the interior paint was gone, a few windows cracked. The hard plastic chairs had all been worn smooth, even the graffiti rubbed away. The ceiling panels were thin, faux wood-grained plastic, warped. I thought of the Partridge Family.
About ten minutes later, the smell came back. I ignored it a moment, then glanced up to the front of the bus, which had filled with thick black smoke. Oh dear.
We pulled over and a few people near the door hopped out. No one seemed all that concerned, more annoyed than anything, but realized we wouldn't be moving anytime soon and began to move out to get some fresher air.
The back of the bus (represent!) was last, and by the time we made it near the doors enough smoke had cleared to see the open engine access panel beside the driver, and thus the engine, which was now sporting tiny flames.
My brain then said, "Holy Jehosaphat, the bus is on fire! Move move movemovemovemovemove!"
But the brain of the old man in front of me said, "Huh, fire. An area of my expertise! I should give them advice as to how best to approach this problem and perhaps solve it."
The man listened to his brain, as you do, and began to tell the driver and assistant (who at this point looked like they were ready to jump ship themselves) how they should attack the engine fire before them. It involved sand, I believe. He was also standing in the aisle, blocking access to the exit.
Not wishing to be rude, I tapped his shoulder, hoping he would take the hint or at least let me pass. He ignored me. Thinking fast, I began hopping up and down. My brain was now freaking out, calculating the probable blast radius and how the Bruins really were going to win the Cup now that I was dead. Finally noticing my apparent distress and/or need for the bathroom, he moved aside and I rushed out.
We were in the precise middle of nowhere (helpfully illustrated by the mile-marker beside us) without a single structure in sight. Most people sat down on the hillside, a few others walked up the road hoping to hitch a ride. I squatted beside an anthill, watching a small army dismantle a stray fruit peel as men rushed in and out of the smoky bus. A pickup truck eventually stopped and offered the driver a jug of water.
He doused the engine, the water instantly hitting the pavement beneath. He came out a few moments later to tell people the bus was, indeed, dead. We figured.
About 45 minutes later another bus arrived to shuttle us the rest of the way into town. After my meeting I met up with a few other PCV's for lunch. I completely forgot to tell them about the bus.