The time is ‘just after six in the evening. It has been raining for almost three hours and the roads are wet, the pavements are wet and a lot of commuters are wet. Buses of all imaginable colors are parked under the massive concrete shelter which is the new bus station. Some buses are packed to capacity while others have only a few passengers.
Spread out over the passenger area are a large number of commuters. Some hold umbrellas in their hands. Some wear raincoats while others are in a varying degree of wetness. I can see weary, faces sitting huddled-up on the few benches available in the station. A group of youngsters sits on the pavement. There is not a face that emits joy. Everybody is preoccupied with going home, away from the wetness and the overpowering roar of the after-work crowd. I stand with my group of friends near a large pillar. Our bus is late. Maybe the rain had delayed it. I think of the warm food and warm bath waiting for me at home and I become impatient. We exchange some comments about the stupid weather. Nobody laughs.
It is close to six thirty. The crowd is getting worse. A nearby school has just released the children and we can see them making a beeline for the bus station. Soon the atmosphere becomes stiffing. There are so many children all over the place. Their activeness irritates us. Our nerves are already frayed by the prolonged waiting and now these overactive kids have to come and bug us. Some smaller ones have even started a game of “catching”. They run all over the passenger area. Some adults bark at them. Obviously, I am not the only irritable one.
More buses come, but not one 1 want to get on. Some are school buses. Before they can come to a complete stop, I see the school children rushing to get on board. Conductors shout obscenities at them. The children check themselves a bit, then scramble for the seats again. Even the girls scramble for their seats. The desire to get home is very strong indeed,
By now it is getting dark. Lights come on in the bus station. Weary faces become clearer to see. Lights flash on in the buses too, revealing the packed conditions of most buses. The passengers seem to care less who is next to them. The main idea is to get home.
Buses arrive and leave with their loads. Taxis and private cars join in the traffic. Horns hoot and raised voices cut through the cool air. I suppose that these taxis are taking advantage of the rain to get willing passengers’ home faster for a higher fare. indeed, I see people getting into the taxis and leaving the station. They do not get far. The immense incoming and outgoing traffic has created a traffic jam. Nobody is going to get very far in a hurry.
I spy a “kacang putih” seller. Bless him, he is still hanging around the station at this time of the day. Probably he could not go home yet too. I walk over to him. There are some people buying some “kacang”. I wait. When my turn comes, I buy some hard “kacang”, the only ones left, and start munching. My friends help themselves to my “kacang”.
At last, the accursed yellow bus that we have been waiting for arrives. it stops a few feet from where 1 stand. Some passengers alight. When the last passenger gets down 1 is the first up the bus. My friends are close behind me. I sit down at the back and breathe a sigh of relief. in a short time, the bus is full up. The conductor has to prevent more people from boarding the bus. The bus driver pumps the accelerator impatiently.
“Jaian!” announced the conductor and the bus moves off slowly.
I look at the people still waiting in the bus station and wonder when they will get home. It is almost completely dark now and the drizzle does not bring any cheer to them. Ah well, at least I am going home. We cannot go very far yet the traffic jam is still. there. So, we inch along. I gaze at the dark clouds and put my hand out of the window to catch some raindrops. It is cold. My eyes wander to the bus station. It is still buzzing with activity. There are lights everywhere in the station but it is dark outside.
Gradually I feel the bus getting out of the clutches of the traffic. We literally whizz away. I look at the huge lit clock beside the bus station. It is already past seven thirty.