Friday morning's sacrament meeting talk (yes, that's right, singular: church only meets for two hours here) began with a story about a man who wanted to get to Detroit but accidentally got on a bus to St. Louis, and so ended up lost and miles away from his destination. The speaker then, of course, analogized that to life and choices and consequences, etc, and spent a lot of his talk repeating this reminder: don't get on the wrong bus!
With that warning echoing in my ears, I headed out to the Friday market that I often frequent after church; I rarely buy anything, but just enjoy wandering the open-air market with vendors shouting at me as loud as they can: skirts, two dinars! Cucumbers, half a dinar a kilo! Pirated DVDs, one dinar! Now that's what I call a Sabbath.
This last Friday, though, I wasn't in the mood, and so began my trip home just a few minutes after arriving, stepping out into the street to look for, you guessed it, a bus. As I began my search for the right bus, one to the university, another bus passed, with Salt written on the front. On a whim, I thought, hey, I've heard good things about Salt, maybe I'll go. So I called out to the conductor, who nodded to confirm the destination, and dashed across several lanes of traffic to the door.
After I settled into my seat, the conductor came by and somewhat sheepishly admitted that the bus was coming from Salt, not going to it. Oops--what was that church talk about again? "But no worries," he said, "I can still get you there."
(Did I ever tell the story of the time in Yogyakarta when the bus conductor lied to me about whether the bus passed my stop, just to get my 10-cent fare? Boy, did he look embarrassed when I climbed back on his bus, going the opposite way this time, after having realized that he lied to me and my destination was nowhere nearby. At least I won the argument about whether I should pay again.)
Luckily, this conductor made good on his promise; after a harrowing ride through the city, with the conductor hanging out the open door, chatting with passengers and passers-by--"going to the market, eh? going to get some lunch, eh?"--and hurrying people off the bus, even into oncoming traffic--"downtown! downtown! Remember we're in the left lane! Quick, before the light changes!"--we arrived at the bus station, and the conductor very paternally delivered me personally to a bus to Salt, even going so far as to ask another passenger to give me his seat, as I otherwise would have had to sit next to a man. And co-ed seating, not surprisingly for a Muslim country, is just. not. done.
And so, despite getting on the "wrong" bus, I got to spend a lovely Friday afternoon in small-town Jordan, where I ate a delicious chicken lunch, chatting with the restaurant owner; walked through the streets, observing--a pre-teen girl wearing hiking her too-big abaya up to her knees; a young boy running down a steep alleyway with a bag of fresh pita bread; an old man in a kefiyyeh sitting on a park bench smoking a cigarette--and sat in the town square, surrounded by Ottoman architecture, reading a Tawfiq al-Hakim play for my literature class. (That's right, without a dictionary: take that, America-mockers!) That day, the wrong bus was the right choice.