Follow That Bus
It is 7:45am on December 25, 2018. I wake up to the sound of a man’s voice shouting something. I open one eye and hear the same man talking but there is a curtain separating us. I look toward the bottom of the curtain and can only see his legs as he continues walking to the next person. Where am I? How did I get here. As I look around, my brain becomes less foggy and I start to remember. I am on a bus somewhere in India. I sit up and pull back the curtain that is hanging in between me and the rest of the bus.
About 8 hours ago, I hopped on an overnight bus to get from Hampi to Bangalore and must have fallen asleep. I usually can’t sleep on public transportation but these sleeper buses are so comfortable. They are like a hostel on wheels. I look around. It is daylight outside. Shit, hopefully I didn’t miss my stop. I pull up Google Maps on my phone to see where we are. Yup, totally missed my stop.
Right then, the bus pulls to a screeching stop and I hear the front doors open. Guess I will get off here. I gather my things, walk off the bus, grab my luggage from underneath, and sit down on the curb to figure out where I am and where I need to go. I have a flight later that evening but am not exactly sure what time it takes off. Probably a good thing to check. I reach for my cell phone. Fuckkk. I left it on the bus. I look up just in time to see the bus pull away into the crowded streets of Bangalore.
I am not so much worried about the actual phone (even though it sadly is the most valuable thing I own). I am more worried about all that is saved on my phone. We don’t realize how connected we have become to our cell phones until we don’t have access to them. Our lives have become so entangled into our apps that we can barely function without them. No Spotify. No Uber. No email. No camera. No photos. Without our phones, we are forced to deal with the world the old fashioned way. Although I am a huge believer in disconnecting, it doesn’t change the fact that the info for the rest of my trip is stored on there. All my flights. All my hotel bookings. My entire itinerary for the next 5 months. And Google Maps. My best friend when traveling alone in a foreign land.
The only other people who got off the bus with me at that stop are a nice couple who I had spoken with briefly the evening before. They look over at me and I am sure they can see the despair in my eyes as I sit there on the concrete. They walk over to me and ask if everything is okay. Yes. I left my phone on the bus and don’t know where I am or how I am supposed to call an Uber. I also don’t know what time my flight is. Or how to get to the airport. The length of my answer shows how I immediately jumped into the frustrated, feel sorry for myself mode. This isn’t their problem. I look up at them. Thanks for asking. I appreciate you. I will figure it out.
I sit on the curb and like I do sometimes when I am overwhelmed and lost in a foreign country, I start to cry. Just to let the frustration out of my system. A car pulls up next to us and I see the back passenger door open as the couple starts to get into their Uber. Standing and holding the back passenger door of the car open, they are still looking over at me. I see them whisper to each other as the guy continues to get in the car. The girl walks over to me. She says to me. Come. Get in. We will chase that bus and try to help you find your phone. Wow, okay. Thank you.
RUNNING THROUGH ONCOMING TRAFFIC
I take a seat in the front next to the driver and they sit in the back. They are locals and explain to the driver where we are going and what to do. As the Uber starts to move in the direction of where the bus headed, they repeatedly try to call the bus company to ask where the next stops are and see if they are able to somehow get in contact with the driver. No luck. But this sure is exciting. Kind of like we are in an action movie, chasing a bus that has my cell phone on it. Which has a bomb planted inside. And if we don’t get to it to answer the call when the bad guy calls it. Well, you can imagine the rest. Boom.
We continue to drive for about twenty minutes but it is pretty much just stop and go the entire time. There is so much traffic. I look around. So many buses. Dozens. Seriously they are all over the place. Goats walking the city streets on the sides of the road. A typical scene in India. I turn back to them. Do you guys even remember what color our bus was or what it looks like at all? She smiles and shakes her head no. Me either. Inside I give up. This seems like a hopeless task. I don’t think we are going to find it. If you guys want to just let me out here…Just as I am saying this I hear the back car door open and see the guy get out of the car.
The door slams shut and I see him running ahead of us, in between the hundreds of cars stuck in traffic. I ask her. What is he doing?! Where is he going?! He is going to try to find the bus. Oh my gosh. Wow. Okay. I am unsure what to say. I watch him zigzag through the traffic ahead along side all of the motorbikes, all of them just trying to make their way through all of the stopped cars. I lose sight of him and we both sit there in silence for a few minutes. I am thinking, this dude is crazy. And he is doing this all for me. My heart is melting.
Her cell phone rings. When she hangs up, she tells me. He found the bus but he does not see any cell phone there. He says he will wait on the bus for you. They are pulled on the side of the road a little ways up ahead. Go meet him so that you can look for yourself to make sure.
I open the door of the Uber and step into the now moving traffic. I start running in the middle of two lanes, cars and buses honking on both sides of me as they swerve around me, trying not to hit me. This may seem crazy anywhere else but this is India so I feel like maybe they are used to these kinds of things.
Finally, up ahead, I see a bus pulled over on the side of the road and the guy is standing there waving to me. I head to my seat to see if I can find my phone. Look under the blanket, behind the seat, everywhere. No phone. Well shit. I give the driver my name and email address and ask him to let me know if it turns up. I am now over the loss of my phone, more amazed that we actually found the bus.
We see that the Uber has caught up to us and is making it’s way over through the lanes to the side of the road. It pulls up behind the bus and we both get back in. Hey guys, I appreciate your help and for going out of your way to help me find my phone. That means a lot to me but you can just let me out here and get to where you need to be. I’ll flag down a cab and just head to the airport. No, we will take you to a Starbucks. You will need wifi so that you can use your laptop. Ask someone there for help connecting to the internet. If that doesn’t work, there are two more coffee shops on the corner with wifi. I thank them and hand them money to pay for the Uber. No, no, we won’t take it. We just wanted to help you.
FLOATING ALONG ON A CLOUD OF KINDNESS
I get to the Starbucks and the girls working there are so sweet helping me get connected and making sure I have everything I need. I spend a few hours there checking my flight times and figuring out where I am going to go once I land. Time to head to the airport. Reach for my phone to order an Uber. Habits. Well this is frustrating. Hmmm, how exactly am I going to get there. I haven’t seen any taxis around here. Ugh.
I promise you that the same second that I am thinking this, a guy at the table in front of me randomly turns around and looks at me. Is there something I can help you with? Wow can this dude read my mind or what. Hmm actually, I am trying to get to the airport but don’t have a cell phone to order an Uber. He says he can order one for me. Thank you so much, that is so kind of you. I sit down to pack up my laptop and at that exact moment see a new message pop up on Facebook. Hello, Jill. We have your phone and have been trying to get ahold of you. What?! I sit down to reply. Hello! Where are you? They send me their location. Only twenty minutes away. Okay, on my way. The nice guy at Starbucks orders an Uber for me and off I go.
THE BEST GIFT
Twenty minutes later, we pull up to the address they gave me. I see two guys standing outside waiting for me. They ask me what my phone looks like to confirm that it is indeed mine and then hand it over. Ahhh! How did you guys find it? They tell me. Our friends did. They said you left it on the bus so they grabbed it for you. Since they had to go to work, we felt like it was our responsibility to track you down. We didn’t want you to look back on your trip to India and remember it as the country where you lost your phone. We want you to remember your time here as enjoyable.
But how did you know who I was or how to contact me if my phone was locked? We noticed the Gelato for Breakfast sticker on the back of your case so we looked it up and found your blog. We then were able to find you through a link to your Facebook page. Wow, I actually had only put that sticker on the night before, when I was on that same bus ride. Talk about synchronicity.
That is so sweet of you. Thank you. They ask me if I want to come in for some coffee. No, actually I need to get to the airport. Okay, here we will take you to the shuttle. They flag down a tuk-tuk, ride with me to make sure I get on the right shuttle, and even pay for the tuk-tuk ride. I really hope these two guys get everything they want in life and more. By the way, don’t you guys need to be at work or something? No, it is a holiday. It is? Ummm, Christmas. Oh. I didn’t even realize that. Well Merry Christmas! And thanks again.
So here I am, sitting on a bus on my way to the airport. Feeling so loved. India, you are chaotic, crazy, unpredictable, overwhelming, vibrant, and the absolute sweetest. Today I fell into your arms and trusted you and you led the way. You took care of me in a way that warmed my heart and forever left a mark on it. Today, I was reminded how many times when you need help, people seem to randomly appear in your life out of nowhere. Even if only for a moment. To help lead you in the right direction. By saying something you needed to hear. Or helping you in some way, to move forward so that you don’t stay stuck.
For me, these lovely strangers seemed to fall into my life that day at exactly the right moment. One after the other. All in order. As if the Universe was planting them there for me to guide me. In the direction of not only finding my cell phone, but also toward remembering that sometimes not being ‘connected’ on your phone can lead you down a path of real, deeper connection. By forcing you to live in the moment and interact with all that is around you. The love I felt today was a way greater gift than getting my phone back. I may be far away from all of my friends and family this year, but this was a day I will never forget. On Christmas, you reminded me that the greatest gift of all is the gift of love and connection.