Are You Mafia?
In Thailand, shuttles are a reliable and cheap way to move around from city to city. Deb World-Traveller and I decided to take a shuttle from Phuket to Krabi. We had been on the road for about one hour when our van stopped at a wooden shed in the middle of nowhere. They gave us all a small round orange sticker and said to grab our stuff and wait over there for another van to pick us up. The sticker is how they identify which group you are in, where you are going, and that you already paid for the trip.
After about 40 minutes, a van pulls up and the man comes over to tell us that is our shuttle. We get on. A few minutes later, Deb looks down and says to me, “Shit. My sticker is gone.” It’s fine, they barely stick on anything, I am sure everyone loses their sticker.
Of course right at that moment, the driver looks at her in the rearview mirror, “Where is your sticker?” He is mad. Very mad. “I just had it, it must have fallen off.” He shakes his head and everyone in the shuttle can tell he is not pleased. He says, “Are you mafia?” Huh? Mafia? No, we are just two nice little American girls trying to go to the beach. “No sir, we are not mafia. We paid for our tickets, you can call the company and confirm.” He stops and pulls over on the side of the road.
GET OUT OF THE VAN OR I WILL SHOOT YOU
“Get out of the van, now!” He is screaming. We both look around to the other passengers who are sitting in silence with stunned looks on their faces. Now, I understand his anger if he thinks some dumb tourists are trying to scam him and get a free ride and this is how he makes a living. But the level of his anger is too extreme and happened way too quickly for it to be related only to this incident. I am thinking it must be coming from something deeper and we just triggered it to come alive.
He goes on yelling about how we can’t ride if we don’t pay and asks us if we are in the mafia again. His anger is growing by the second and you can tell everyone in the shuttle, including me, is legitimately scared. She pulls out 400 baht (about 12 USD) and hands it to him even though she already paid. We have no cell service here, it is getting dark, and there is no town in sight. “Here, I will pay again, please let us stay.” He takes the money and throws it back at her.
The driver then steps out of the front seat, walks to the side of the van, and slides open the door where we are sitting. He says, “Get out of the van or I will drive you to an alley, pull out my gun, and shoot you.” What the fuck. Okay, we will get out of the van.
HUMAN CONNECTION AT IT's FINEST
We start to grab our stuff and get out of the van. Everyone else is just sitting there in shock. Then, a guy in the back shouts. “She paid for her ticket. If she gets off the bus, I am getting off too.”
He climbs his way to the front of the van, gets out, and stands by us on the side of the road. The either others in the shuttle start climbing out as well until we are all standing on the side of the road. The guy from the back continues to advocate for us, talking to the driver. He is saying how it is all of us, or none of us. The driver just stands there. I can see he is thinking about how this might not look good if his entire shuttle is empty when he arrives at our destination. We all end up getting back in the van and ride the rest of the way in silence.
I spent the last hour of the ride feeling so much love for this guy who is sitting in the back of the van. He didn’t know us and could have easily let us be left on the side of the road so that he could enjoy his own holiday. Instead, he took the chance of being left on the side of the road himself, in order to try and help us. No one else in the van said anything, although they did follow him. Without his voice, we would have been stranded and alone while they continued along on their journey.
BE THE VOICE, CHANGE THE WORLD
I am a pretty quiet person and this made me question how many times I had stayed quiet when I should have said something. I am sure others in the van wanted to help but were too scared to make this driver more angry. There are times when it may feel like no one cares about us. But when it comes down to it, people really are willing to help each other. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to be the voice and often others will follow. From that moment on, I told myself I would strive to be this voice when no one else steps up.
When it comes down to it, we are all in this together and need to stand by each other. We are all just trying to make it the best we can. While I would prefer to never be in this situation again, I am thankful for the reminder of the power of human connection. Another reminder to take away from this story. If you are ever in Thailand, do NOT lose your sticker.