I just got home. It is now 10:30pm and the temperature is in the mid 30s and drizzling. It is supposed to get to 30F tonight. The full moon is gone and it is dark. It is not too nice out.
If there is anyone who understands that the streets of a large metropolitan city can be mean .. very mean .. it is me. Should I add that Detroit Michigan is my home city? With an estimated population of 1.3 million people .. Ulaanbaatar Mongolia certainly qualifies as a large metro area. I have had several untoward (adjective: unfavorable .. unfortunate ..) incidents since I have been here. Each involved street drunks. One of them grabbed my left arm near the railway station. In flipping him onto his back face-up in a large puddle of water I seriously damaged my umbrella and hurt my right shoulder. This was about 4pm in the afternoon. Several weeks later .. about 10am in the morning of all times .. another one grabbed my right arm and in pushing him away he proceeded to pick up a fairly large piece of broken concrete and started for me. Had I not had a Mongolian friend with me who interceded between us things could have gotten real nasty. It was bad enough that when we came out of his apartment (he tried to follow us in and my friend pushed him away and slammed the security door in his face) about one hour later my antagonist was still waiting for us with his piece of concrete in hand. I walked away and my friend simply held him (literally) in check. Ugly. A third street drunk this one about 1pm noontime grabbed my left arm and we two had some serious words. I was able to simply continue walking and since we were on Peace Avenue in the heart of downtown he backed off having had the sense to know police were all around us.
All is not sweetness and light here in Ulaanbaatar. In the martial arts you NEVER let anyone grab you. You react at touch. Ask my now deceased first wife who came up behind me lovingly in a record store in Westfield New York in early August of 1958 a day or so before we got married. She never came up quietly behind me again. Maybe the next lad I will hug. Whip out a ready 5,000 Tug note for him and avoid getting immediately violent with him. Whisper in his ear .. “Buddy you sure could use a meeting!”
The bus system basically shuts down at 10pm. I have been working with the wife of a friend setting up an English/Mongolian website. I intended to leave their apartment at 9pm. Instead I left about 9:30pm. The walk to the bus stop was cold. I was not dressed for the night. 35F with light rain and a brisk wind can be chilly. Luckily I got a bus immediately. I have to catch two different buses to get home from their apartment so I was in time but with no time to spare. Things are totally different in the dark with some rain.
“This does not seem right.” I asked a couple on the bus IF I was on a number 5. They nodded NO! A lady across the aisle asked if I spoke English. I nodded and she asked me if she could help. She confirmed I was on the wrong bus and needed to get off immediately and catch a taxi home. What had happened was the bus driver had not changed his route sign. I KNEW I had gotten onto a number 5 and when I got off the bus I double checked and it WAS posted as a number 5. How does one protect ones self from this?
35F .. light rain .. the wind picking-up .. not dressed properly .. and lost in a large metropolitan city at night .. not a good feeling. Another lady who had gotten off the bus with me walked up beside me and asked if she could help me. I told her where I wanted to go and she said .. “You have got to get a taxi. The buses are due to stop running at 10pm and it is 10pm.”
She motoned for me to cross the street but I kept walking straight. I asked her IF Peace Avenue was to my left. “Yes.” she said. I said how far .. “Two Kilometers.” A mile and a quarter .. I was getting chilled. So when we got to the next major street we turned left. I am dealing with a sprained right knee and there was no way I was going to walk 2-Kilometers. Just the doing of that in the dark-of-night is dangerous.
Here in Ulaanbaatar there are a plethora of private automobiles that serve as de facto taxi cabs. You hold out your hand and they appear and stop. She did and one stopped. Just like that. She explained to the driver where I needed to go and said to give him 2,000 Mongolian Tug. I did and got into the car.
THEN IT HIT ME LIKE A BRICKBAT!
I just got into a strange automobile with two total strangers in the dark of night in this large metro area! You want an uneasy feeling? I just described it. There is an unwritten rule: You never do this! NEVER EVER!
So off we went. In the dark of night .. me in the back seat with two total strangers in their car. You want an uneasy feeling?
As luck (I think it was a very good omen) would have it the front seat passenger was a mature lady. Then after we drove for about five minutes .. I suddenly realized exactly and precisely where we were. We were on the East side of Sukhbaatar Square heading South about to intersect Peace Avenue in the very heart of downtown Ulaanbaatar. A red light stopped us. I could see they were aiming to cross Peace Avenue and I said and vigorously motioned .. “NO! Go right and West onto Peace Avenue!” They did and I began to relax. Just the fact that I knew where I was and they could tell I certainly did was probably some Good Karma on my side of the ledger.
Then they started to bear left to turn South on Sukhbaatar Avenue .. Again I said and vigorously motioned .. “NO! Go straight.” Again they did as I asked and I thought to myself .. “Captain it looks like you are going to actually live through this.”
In their pigeon English they asked if I knew where I was and I vigorously stated .. “YES!” .. “Keep going straight!” as I pointed ahead of us.
Past the State Department Store we motored. Past the Peace Mall we motored. Past the Ramada Inn we motored. The train station is to the left down there. I kept naming and ticking off my land-marks. We got to MY CORNER .. the MT Gasoline Station and the Irish Pub. I told them .. “Just ahead on the right is the bus stop. Let me down there.”
She .. The lady in the front passenger seat said 2,000 Tug (US $ 1.01) would not cover my ride. She said it would be 5,000 Tug (US $ 2.53). I just happened to have 3,000 Tug (US $ 1.52) ready and instantly handed it to her. I then profusely thanked the two of them for the ride. We all felt better. We were all happy I had not wet the back seat of their car when I realized the situation I was in shortly after I had gotten into their car. I can make-light of it now but believe me it did not begin as a joking situation!
Count the Eskimos. *Start on the bus with the nice couple and *The lady across the aisle who spoke English. *The lady who got off the bus and walked with me and spoke English. *YES the couple in the car who I rode with. I fully believe that when they stopped for the lady and myself they made the decision .. “That couple look safe to pick up.” This night time danger business goes against the drivers of the cabs too. There are some very bad passengers in this world.
What is the lesson here?
Stay in at night or be within easy walking distance of your home. I am battling a severe head cold with a sprained right knee. It was not an option to walk for 30-minutes in the cold drizzle in the dark. That alone is bad business. Then when I got to Peace Avenue what then? No way could I have walked West out Peace Avenue home. So no matter a taxi was the only option.
My friends offered to let me stay overnight with them. I think in retrospect I should have done so BUT who could have predicted what happened?
Sometimes I really feel like somebody or something is really looking-out-for-me. The theological problem with such a concept is that too many other very good people are having horrific things happen to them so where are their Eskimos?
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you .. it will be enough. MEISTER ECKHART ..
Sign Me One Very Lucky and Thankful Hombre!
THE REST OF THE STORY ..
My friend walked me from his apartment to the bus and saw me get onto the bus. As I was riding I got a call from his wife. I could not hear her at all so I hung up. As I have been writing this I got a call from her. She said she called me on the bus because her husband told her that I had gotten onto the wrong bus. Had she gotten me she was going to tell me to get off the bus immediately. As it turned out I had figured out for myself I was on the wrong bus.
He also texted me the following text message:
Pls give yr phone to d bus driver.. U r on d wrong bus .. sorry
Needless to say they were extremely concerned for my safety and well being.
- OCT 2, 15 .. DEUCES AND JACKS .. HERE WE GO LOOP DE LOOP!
- OCT 14, 15 .. I MAY RUN FOR POLITICAL OFFICE ..