Monday, June 15, 2015

I Finally Got One Song Out of My Head and...

View from the top of the Red Bus

"Riding the bus and it’s hot and bumpy and crowded and too noisy and more than anything in the world you want to get off and the only reason in the world you don’t get off is it’s still fifty blocks from where you’re going?"  ~ Marsha Norman

I half-lied to the people in my two groups by telling them I like taking buses and trains.  I love riding trains. I'm okay with some buses. I hate hop-on hop-off buses most of the time...especially if they are the ever-present City Sightseeing bus aka "The Red Bus."  I guess that's not true, either. I actually like HOHO buses when they run efficiently and we can use them to take us to the important parts of the city we're visiting.  We were on one HOHO in Verona just last Sunday, and it was on-time (something not many of them are) and had pleasant employees (something *most* of them do NOT have).

 Rome, however, was a nightmare with both groups.  You may remember my fiasco with the HOHO bus one day when the driver was slow and then backed into another bus. That's the least of the problems, though.

There are six HOHO operators in Rome, and they all do basically the same route (dictated by the city government) and charge the same prices for 24-, 48-, and 72-hour tickets. They all also have people shoving pamphlets in your face wherever you walk in the tourist areas, and they all supposedly have a bus hitting each stop about every 15-25 minutes. HA.

We caught the bus early this morning because I wanted to get to the Colosseum early for everyone to have time to enjoy it, the Forum, and the Palantine Hill area.  We got to the bus stop in time to catch the first bus and were lucky enough to get right on it.

"This is great," I announced. "I can't believe there wasn't a line."  Listen.  Someone smack me in the head the next time I say something stupid like that. As I said last week, as soon as I mention how smoothly something is going, all hell breaks loose.

Line for Red Bus yesterday

 The ride to the Colosseum was okay.  Rome was cloudy when we got on, so sitting on top was pleasant and a little cool.  We got to the Colosseum, picked up the pre-paid tickets, and walked right in.  It was great.  After 30 minutes, though, I decided to leave since I had to get back to the apartment, take a shower, pack, and get ready to leave Rome.  Nancy, who has had trouble with her foot, decided to come back with me.  Kathy, Ed, Barb, and Jerry stayed to explore everything else.

It started sprinkling, so we hurried along. Nancy and I got to the bus stop just as a bus was pulling away.  There was one couple in front of us, and the sales guy told us another bus would be by in about five minutes.  The woman in front of us started singing, "Sole, sole. Sole. Sole. Sole." (pronounced sew-lay) to the tune of "A Tisket, a Tasket."  The rain came down a little harder, men selling umbrellas and ponchos kept approaching us, and she continued to sing. I'm not sure which got on my nerves more.

A yellow bus, two green (one lime and one green-green) buses, a pink bus, and a blue bus all came by.  People tried to cut in front of us, and Mrs. Spain's Got Talent continued to sing and hum that infernal song.

"I wish I had a taser," I said to Nancy.

"To keep people behind us?" she asked me.

"No. To stop that woman from singing that song."  She laughed. I didn't.

A red bus finally showed up about 10 minutes after it was supposed to be there.  About 15 people got off, and no one got on.  The sales guy and the "guide" on the bus were talking.  He backed away, and the bus door closed.

"No one can ride this bus," he announced.  "The microphone is broken, and it will be at the next stop for at least 15 minutes while they fix it. "

"We don't care about the microphone," I said to him.  "I need to get back."

"Madam," he smiled at me. "You have to wait for the next bus.  Only five minutes."

I probably don't need to tell you that the five minutes stretched to 15 or so, and when *that* red bus finally showed up, it let a bunch of people off and no one on.

"NOW WHAT?"  I was pretty agitated because the line was growing, people were trying to cut in front of us, and that woman would not stop singing that song.

Mr. City Sightseeing Sales Guy

"No one can get on this bus, either, Madam," he said.  "The sound system is broken, and it will take an hour to repair."

I was pretty much in his face at that point.  "Look," I said, "when are we going to see a bus that will let us get on?"

"Madam, I will call."  He did, and he said to us, "Another bus will be here in five minutes."

"Will it be working?" Nancy asked him.

His reply was not positive.  "I hope."

The singer was still singing that song that was, by now, really prickling my nerves.  "Stop singing that f-ing song," I hissed under my breath. "STOP."  She didn't.

In that supposed five minutes (more like 20) two yellow, five green (three lime and two green-green) buses, one pink bus, and two blue buses all stopped.  The sales guy called his office and started yelling at them.  He walked over to us ad showed me his cell phone.

"There are two buses on the way," he explained as he showed us the GPS tracking them on his phone. "They'll be here in two-to-three minutes."

All I can tell you is this:  When that bus did arrive about 10 minutes later, we had been in line 55 minutes.  People in line behind us (There were about 40-to-50.) tried to sneak on the back way. Mr. Sales Guy stopped them and let 12 of us in the front on.  Nancy and I had to sit on top on seats that were wet because of the rain.  We tried to dry them off a bit.

"I hate sitting in wet pants," I said to Nancy, "but at least the singer isn't around her. If this bus hadn't shown up, you might have had to bail me out of a Roman jail."  She laughed. I was serious.

Nancy & I happy to be on the bus even though we have wet hair and wet pants.

Luckily for us, the rain stopped before we got on the bus, so we could at least ride without having an outdoor shower.  The ride around the city back to the Termini stop took almost an hour, so we spent two hours waiting for and riding that stupid bus. I didn't even listen to the commentary, although I've heard it so many times I'm sure I could do most of it in my sleep.  :-)

All told, I spent almost three hours waiting for and riding red buses today.  My train trip from Rome to Bologna took all of one hour and fifty-eight minutes. It was dry, quiet, and quick, and they gave us complimentary drinks and snacks.

And there was no one singing "Sole, sole.  Sole. Sole. Sole."

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