Is this a scene from The Heart of Darkness rewritten as Apocalypse Now rewritten as Matt and Lindsay Leave Saigon? This question can’t help but pop into my mind as we’re handed our seat numbers on a scrap of paper from a man with a half smoked cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, he hasn’t changed since 1972. Phones are ringing as his co-workers scribble down notes on calendars and schedules and account books, so our interaction is cut short.
We find a spot in the passenger lounge (I use this term haphazardly) on a leather bench seat removed from a war-era officer transport jeep, (I’m guessing). And though an attendant cleans up the box of rotten avocados which exploded on the tile floor in front of us, the pleasant aroma of vomited vegetables lingers.
Packages move into buses, some in thin sacks filled with discreet wares probably weighing 250 pounds, some are just plastic parcels of clothes, and others might be parts of a giant dragon parade float. Again, I’m guessing on the latter, but I need it to be something. Motos come and go delivering smaller more securely taped boxes. And the phones keep ringing. If none of this satisfies your material desires, vendors wander through the waiting crowd selling lottery tickets, hologram images of cowboys and Jesus, and steamed dumplings by the dozen. And the phones keep ringing.
I eventually zone out to the giant flat screen silently playing Vietnamese soap operas, only to be interrupted by our man, smiling, letting us know our bus is 30 minutes delayed. I find this disturbingly considerate and thus I’m thankful for his compassion in this gritty garrison.