More Bus Tales

I spend part of my commute home on our employee bus. It takes us from work to the outskirts of central downtown Yerevan, with a few stops on the way. Our bus driver is a no-nonsense kind of guy, who is all business. No dawdling while departing the bus, or he’ll take off while you’re in mid-descent.  No chatting, eyes on the road, and he waits for no one.  Although as one of my major life accomplishments, I have gotten him to smile, wave, and say buh-bye as I’m leaving.  It’s awesome.

Yesterday, he seemed in more of a hurry than usual.  I took note of his steely glare in the rear-view mirror as one of the ladies was gingerly climbing down the bus steps.  He was rolling as soon as her second foot touched the ground.  I knew that meant that I needed to stand up and be waiting at the door ready to depart, when he pulled up to my stop.

I didn’t grow up using buses, or metros, or any kind of public transportation.  I say this because I’m not as skilled at standing up or maneuvering inside moving vehicles as my compatriots.  I basically hang on for dear life.  I’ve also noticed that public transportation drivers in Armenia take it for granted that every person in their vehicle has superior balancing skills.  They (the drivers) have a steering wheel to hang on to, so I have theorized that they don’t know the effect that their abrupt stops and zooming starts have on their passengers.  Needless to say I’ve stumbled around a few times.

But today I was ready.  I stood in the doorway, braced myself against a pole, and waited for the bus to come to a full stop.  The driver apparently took this as a challenge.  Instead of his normal glide up to the curb, he took a sharp right , a quick halt, and popped open the doors.  In a move that I still do not understand nor could I ever duplicate, my mouth opened for a brief second, and my gum dropped out.  Right on the floor.  At my feet.  A big white blob of gum.

Now, I couldn’t just leave it there.  Jump over it for the next person to step on.  So I did what I thought was the only logical solution, I bent down, and picked it up.  As I was doing so, I thought to myself, “gee, this looks like a tooth”, and did a quick grab and flick so it wouldn’t stick to my fingers.  I turned to the driver to say my thank-you’s for the delightful ride and saw that he was staring.  “Shnorhakalutyun” I called out.  No wave or buh-bye in response.  Just staring.  Ok, maybe he had noticed the gum projectile.  I looked back at the other passengers and saw that yes, everyone had seen the gum projectile.  I jumped off.

The mystery is if they thought it was actually a tooth, or were just marveling at how ridiculous it was for gum to just drop out of my mouth.  I’ll never know, I’m not planning on doing field polling.  The adventures continue!



Bus Life

Yesterday while riding the bus home, I got a phone call. First, let’s put in some qualifiers.  A hot, noisy, stuffy bus.  Jammed with people.  At 108 million degrees.  And my phone had been ringing non-stop all day. Which meant that now, at 6:47 p.m., my phone battery was ready to die. I had been working on revisions of texts all day, so I assumed the call was a continuation of previous conversations.  I answered the phone to instead find a feisty older woman at the other end.

Translated from Armenian:

Ms. Feisty:  Alo, alo, she shouted. Can you hear me?
Me:  No, I responded, I’m on a bus, I can’t hear you.
Ms. Feisty:  What? Are you selling an apartment in Etchmiadzin?

I could faintly hear her, but tried to make out what she was saying.

Me:  Yes, yes, I am, but I can’t hear you very well, now I’m on a bus.
Ms. Feisty:  What? Can you hear me?  Are you the one selling the apartment?
Me:  Yes, but I’m on a bus, and I can’t hear you.  Can I call you later?
Ms. Feisty:  What?  You’re not selling your house?

After several back and forth exchanges, I give up.

Me:  Yes, I’m selling my apartment in Etchmiadzin.
Ms. Feisty:  Are you there now?
Me:  No, I’m on a bus in Yerevan.
Ms. Feisty: Why are you on a bus?  Don’t you live in Etchmiadzin?
Me:  No, I work in Etchmiadzin.
Ms. Feisty:  So, the house isn’t yours?
Me:  Yes, the house is mine, and I’m selling it.
Ms. Feisty:  (something half Russian/half Armenian, and completely unintelligible)
Me:  I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. I speak only a little Armenian
Ms. Feisty:  What language do you speak?
Me:  English and Armenian
Ms. Feisty:  I don’t speak English
Me:  That’s ok, just speak Armenian slowly, and I will understand.
Ms. Feisty:  Eh, I don’t speak English.  Bye

And with that, she hung up.  A useless, annoying ten minute conversation.  Since I had already been screaming in the phone so she could hear me, I just continued on.

Not translated from Armenian:

“Well, f*** you too lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Unfortunately, while the primary language in Armenia is of course Armenian, “f*** you” is universally understood.  I realized that forty pairs of eyes were upon me.  I hid behind my sunglasses for the remainder of my commute.  And for the first time ever, after I handed my fare to the bus driver and said my normal “thank you”, he responded with a wary, “voch inch (no problem)”.  Bus 47 will be off limits for  while.

It’s For The Birds

So, I’m sitting in front of my computer in the living room, and I hear a slight noise, and see movement on the floor in front of me. I push back my glasses and peer over the computer at the floor, and see a little sparrow bird hopping along. He sees me, I see him, and we both freeze.

Not that awkward freeze when you see someone you embarrassed yourself in front of. No.  A full-on “oh-shit-what-do-I-do-now” freeze.

The stare down begins. He looks at me, I look at him. He’s pretty casual about the whole situation, and turns around and hops straight into the bedroom. Like he forgot his hat.  But I realize he’s lost. Or he would have hopped back out the way he came.  Has no exit strategy. In over his head. Oh sure, he’s acting like he knows what he’s doing, but clearly he realizes he’s in trouble. I start to panic a bit, I mean, after all, this is my second bird incident in the last 4 days.

Armenian Magpie - Birds of Armenia Project - Acopian Center for the Environment at AUA

Armenian Magpie – Birds of Armenia Project – Acopian Center for the Environment at AUA

On Tuesday, a giant Magpie flew into my office smack into a closed window. He recovered, put it in reverse, and smacked into the first window. Corrected himself again, and flew out. I was screaming of course, since he was the size of a small pterodactyl, and ran to the window to make sure he wasn’t coming back. I have a corner office, with a window on each of the exterior walls, so I guess he thought it would be fun to buzz through the office. Jerk.

And now, it’s Friday, and another feathered friend decides to visit. What are the odds? Somebody buy me a lottery ticket!! But at least this one was small. I was slightly freaked out, he didn’t seem in a hurry to leave, and I had no idea what to do. I called my most level-headed friend. “How cute” she says, “take a picture”. NOT the advice I was looking for. My concern was getting him out without having him crap on every piece of furniture in the house. I hung up and went back to the staring contest.


Leo, on a hop-about. Post pooping

I opened the front door, thinking that an alternate cross breeze would tempt him to fly into the hall. Although in retrospect, that was a stupid idea, then how was I going to get him to fly down two flights of stairs and out the front door. No matter, he didn’t budge. Walked around under my bed like he was going to rent the place.

Since he was making himself comfortable, I decided to take a picture. Bad move.   Apparently, he’s a celebrity, NO PHOTOS, and he freaked out, flew over my head out of the bedroom, back into the living room and smacked into the living room window. Which doesn’t open, doesn’t lead to the outside, and is only there to let in light.  Not a viable escape option. He recovered, turned around and flew back and hit the bedroom window, which was also closed. Exactly the scenario I was trying to avoid. He recovered again and flew back to the living room window, and somehow got under the sheer. I named him Leo. Don’t know why, I needed a name to yell.  “Leo, calm the f*** down!!”

I closed the bedroom door to give him a chance to settle down and consider his options. “Look Leo, if neither of us panic, we can fix this”, I said. He fluttered up and perched on my Lenox vase.  Ok, he was a reasonable guy with good taste, we got this. I studied the situation a bit more, and came up with a plan. In what I thought was a blindingly lightning fast move, I moved past him, opened the living room door, opened the exterior wall window, and ran back into the living room and waited for him to fly out.

Leo? No Leo. I knew he couldn’t have flown past me as I ran through the doorway, so I started looking around on the floor. Still no Leo. Then he let out a little “cheep”. Great, Leo had decided he needed a view from the top, and he was pacing back and forth on the crown molding. Ok, nobody panic, we’re still going to make this work.  I covered my head with a dive-bomb-poop-protecting-towel and sat down on the floor in the farthest away corner to have another chat. “Leo, my man, you can do this, I see you guys buzz people all the time, this is no big deal”. Leo still paced. I assumed he was getting ready to take out his frustrations by pooping fifteen pounds of sunflower seeds on the couch. More staring. More pacing by Leo.

In my calmest no-sudden-movements voice, I said, “Leo …. just f***ing go for it”. And he did. A graceful dive bomb off the crown molding, a left turn at the TV and he flew out the window. Victory! He did leave me a tiny present on the floor of the bedroom, but it’s understandable given the circumstances, no shame there.

I have already been told that a bird in my office was good luck, and now a bird in my house was extra good luck. But I know these superstitions come in threes, I can’t imagine what’s next.