A Hungarian family, an Italian family, a Hassidic Rabbi and three American college students are stranded at a bus station in Budapest. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke and, in a way, it is.
This is how Jessica Hubble, Phoebe Suy and I began our weekend journey to Vienna. We arrived at Budapest Népliget bus station an hour before our bus was set to depart for Vienna. I know, it sounds like overkill, but none of us can claim to be seasoned international bus travelers.
We were informed that our bus was slightly delayed, but we remained calm. We were going to Vienna! Who can complain about a five-minute delay? Five minutes passed, 10 minutes passed, 20, 30 then 45 when our bus finally arrived. The 10 of us who bonded over the frustration of our delayed bus eagerly lined up to begin our weekend adventure. But, here is where the story really gets interesting.
The bus was not ours, it was the next bus departing for Vienna. No one had any contact with our bus (we still don’t know what happened to it). So, the 10 of us stood before a perfectly good bus with plenty of seats to take us to Vienna, clutching our voided bus tickets wondering what to do next.
The station workers angrily told us time and time again they had no way to help us and no way to solve the mystery of the missing bus. So, we all stood helpless as other passengers boarded the bus and looked at us through the windows in air-conditioned comfort. I felt like a plebian in the 18th century begging the gentry for a loaf of bread as they rolled by in a gilded (and air-conditioned) carriage.
The Rabbi turned to me before ascending the stairs and said, “Don’t worry. I won’t leave you behind,” and pointed up again.
Our gang descended into a flurry of bickering with the driver, who looked like he could have been a bouncer before he settled down into the quiet life of an international bus driver. We all agreed to speak English and a small, Italian woman took the lead on trying to get us to Vienna. We designated her our “fearless leader.” While we all argued, the Rabbi prayed. He motioned for us all to be calm and pointed up. I took that as a cue to start praying myself.
The Rabbi started speaking to the bus driver in Hungarian and he seemed to soften. He had convinced the driver to let him on board. The Rabbi turned to me before ascending the stairs and said, “Don’t worry. I won’t leave you behind,” and pointed up again. I believed him. The Rabbi and I may be of different faiths, but that small motion meant just as much to me as to him.
Our fearless leader continued to argue our case to the driver, throwing rapid fire evidence at him as to why we should be allowed to board the bus. He finally agreed and we all piled on board the large, lime green bus. After we departed the station, the Rabbi passed me in the aisle and said, “I told you.”
None of this was very comical in the moment, but we laughed about our misadventure all the way to Vienna. It was the beginning of a weekend full of adventures and it wasn’t nearly over yet.