This is what a crowded backpacker bus in Thailand looks like. Every seat filled with people standing and sitting all down the aisle. If you think that’s not safe, consider also that the backpacks belonging to the extra passengers were piled up behind the driver, blocking the entrance and there was no air-conditioning. Altogether not ideal but certainly not unusual for backpacker travel in South East Asia. Surprisingly even with a few grumbles about over-crowding the mood on this bus was cheerful and friendly. I guess everyone was focusing on the destination: beautiful beaches on the islands in the Gulf of Thailand.
Everyone, that is, except one American girl. She and her three friends were among the unfortunates who boarded the bus last and ended up sitting in the aisle. As the bus pulled away from the stop, when all of the aisle-seaters were arranging themselves as comfortably as they could, she started to panic. She became agitated: “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. This is claustrophobic” . Honestly I was afraid she would become hysterical which would have been unfortunate for her but also possibly dangerous to the people around her – including my two children who, at this time, were calmly sitting (on seats) reading their books.
As this girl became more upset no-one moved to help her. To me this was an interesting sociological scenario. Ideally, I’d support the Good Samaritan principle: help others when you’re not obligated to do so. However, in this case all the budget travelers on this bus had been equally swindled. This journey wasn’t going to be comfortable for anyone.
Then BigB stood up and offered her his seat. She grabbed it as if it were the last place on a Titanic lifeboat, thanking him profusely while I fumed (inwardly) at her selfishness. BigB beamed at the praise heaped on him by the kids seated around us. Murph and I piled on “Well done Buddy”‘s too. All the while I was thinking: “What a princess! She shouldn’t have come on a backpacker trip if she can’t handle the stresses budget travel sometimes throws your way.”
So, here’s my question to you: What do you think? Am I being too harsh on this girl? Was BigB’s charity appropriate? What would you have done?
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I don’t know. Thankfully we didn’t go on any buses this crowded, but I did get annoyed with the lady who shared her seat with her child (and therefore me) in Vietnam. Although I seethed inwardly, I didn’t say anything, partly because I was embarrassed at making a fuss, and partly because I was well aware that I was a good deal luckier than her and she probably couldn’t have afforded to buy her daughter a separate ticket. I realise that this is a different type of situation. Maybe the backpacker hadn’t realised quite what it would be like. Maybe she should have stayed at home. Well done to your beautifully brought up son though for having such good manners.
As a parent I would be incredibly proud of my kid for a move like that. I’m sure it was cool for him, too how often do you get to break the rules and sit on the floor of a bus?
I’m not overly clausterphobic, but can become so if a space is too crowded. Maybe she just didn’t know until it was too late to get off? I’d cut her some slack, it may have been her first experience of that sort…
And then I’d pat myself on the back for raising such a thoughtful kid.
Someone once said adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Kudos to BigB for his courage to step up and be gentleman. I’m guessing he’ll remember that moment for a long while. Kudos to you for letting him shine, even though it added an extra burden on you. It sounds from your description that you believe the girl acted as a spoiled “princess”. Are you concerned her behavior reflects poorly on you as a fellow traveling American? It seems to me that she was having a panic attack, which may not be completely within her control. From her “profuse” gratitude, I am also guessing she may have been embarrassed that this young kid can roll with the punches better than she. Traveling affords so much learning, and your son just saw that he is powerful enough to diffuse a potential disastrous situation with his kindness. Getting to be hero for the day probably more than outweighed his discomfort of sitting on the floor for that trip. Let that be the take home.
Hi folks! Thanks for your comments + you’re right B deserves lots of kudos for his thoughtful behavior. Honestly, I don’t think we can claim any parenting points for that at all though, that’s just his own good nature.
@Lora: I don’t think that I was concerned about the girl’s behavior reflecting poorly on me as a fellow traveling American. I may live in Seattle but I still consider myself Irish
I guess the trigger for me is that I think that everyone needs to at least try to help themselves. That’s what try I coach my kids on: when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Panic aside (honestly, I felt sorry for her initially), to me that’s part of growing up: as an adult you need to learn to recognize when you’re under stress and develop your own tools/methods to deal with it.
Hopefully this gal now knows her limits + will use that to plan her trips going forward.