Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Hollow Tooth Diaries - Beyond Riga: Warsaw Day Zero

Europe! Tiniest of Continents! The distance between things is less here than it is elsewhere! Hell, I was in Vilnius last week. Warsaw's only one country away! And Friend Krzysztof has graciously offered to let me mooch off him for the weekend. Let's do this!

The bus from Riga to Warsaw takes 12-13 hours on a good day.

I set off with my bags and my seasonally-inappropriate overcoat. I had checked the weather before I left. It was about all the preparation I did do. I didn't, for instance, write down Friend Krzysztof's phone number or even consider the slightest chance that the merest possibility might somewhat exist that Central European discount bus lines might be the teensiest bit unreliable.

More fool I.

The bus broke down in Lithuania. At Marijampole, a town notable for its convenience stores that close some time before 6pm on a Friday, they herded us off the bus to effect repairs. You know, after letting us stew in the AC-less heat for about 20 minutes, packed like sardines in a fuzzy, scratchy, synthetic fibre-upholstered can. The passengers disembarked and serious men with rolled-up shirtsleeves sagely applied power tools to the bus's engine. To my ignorant eyes, it looked like a brutal assault on an innocent piece of machinery with hammer and electric drill. The worksite invariably attracted a cluster of (almost entirely male) passengers who looked on sagely. Beneath their stoic exteriors, one could see them struggling with that primal instinct if you just let ME look at it... And hold the drill... I too fell prey to these (entirely baseless) thoughts, which no doubt originate from deep in the evolutionary history of our species, where women tended children and gathered berries, while men repaired savannah tractors.

Two and a half hours later, they managed to excise the offending metal widget, drive somewhere to get a new and better widget, and replace the widget. We were off again! By this point, Phoneless Me knew that there would be trouble down the line.

The sun went down as we trundled through northern Poland. I read my book and watched the far-off lightning, sure that, while it might be difficult to connect with Friend
Krzysztof when I arrived it would certainly happen. Hell, when the freeway into town was washed out by waist-deep floodwaters, delaying my arrival even futher, I barely batted an eye. It was probably 2 or 3 in the morning when I trudged off the bus into my new home, Zachodni Station.

NEXT TIME: Danger! Exhaustion! Broken machinery! Annoying noises!

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