A rant about endless chatter

For the last three hours I have been trapped between three of the world’s most talkative people. It was hell.

I’m not known for my small talk, and anyway, bus and train rides in particular make me deliciously drowsy. There’s nothing better than watching the world slip by from a window seat as I drift along in a half-dream state.

For that very reason I was particularly excited about the view from the minibus I planned to take from Cariari (gateway to Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park) to La Fortuna (for viewing the lava flows of Volcán Arenal). I thought I’d landed the jackpot with a windscreen view for what the Lonely Planet describes as “one beautiful ride”:

“With the backdrop of Volcán Platanar behind you, the road winding through this green, river-rich agrarian region passes through properous quaint towns bright with bougainvillea. In front of you, if the weather cooperates, the smoking peak of Arenal will loom in the distance.”
Lonely Planet guide to Costa Rica

To my supreme irritation, it was utterly ruined by the constant rabbiting between the driver and two other passengers. I was in the middle of the three front seats, squashed between the driver and his gear stick and another passenger, and directly in front of his two partners in verbal crime. All the time,  road rage of an entirely new kind was boiling up inside me.

In my head I planned what I would say to them: “Por favor, mas velocidad, mas tranquillo, menas…hablar, para mi…no loco.” (I don’t know the Spanish for “talking”. I don’t the Spanish for “sanity“. I wanted to say, “Please, more speed, more peace, less talking, for my own sanity!”) But my courage (and sense of common decency) failed me, so I didn’t.

I doubt they’d have understood me, both because of my poor Spanish and because it’s completely unreasonable to want a bit of peace and quiet in a shared bus, isn’t it? I mean, in the immortal words of Bob Hoskins:

It’s good to talk.”

Instead I actually put my hands behind my head in the hope of creating some kind of physical barrier between them (common decency abandoned). Did it work? Did it f**k! It was as if I didn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of chit chat over a cup of tea. But non stop for three hours? They had only just met. And they yelled in my ears. They didn’t shut up for one whole minute – I timed the pauses. Just when I thought it was safe to turn down the volume on my iPod (even full volume wasn’t loud enough, by the way) or take the headphones off, one of them, usually the Spanish woman I noted (nothing against Spanish women in general of course), started up again.

What were they talking about? I have no idea, and I didn’t want to know. It was all in Spanish which I think made it more bearable. With my level of Spanish, fast talking in the language is mostly white noise. All I could pick out was lists of fruit and vegetables.

Most disconcerting was the level of involvement of the driver in the conversation. When he talked he slowed down. When the others talked he checked them out in the rear-view mirror. When he got really animated he waved his hands for extra emphasis, usually in front of my face.

Here’s my plea to fellow passengers. And drivers. And chatterboxes in general. If you want to talk, fine but please stop for breath. And please, please, please (this is crucial) don’t talk across anyone who can’t escape.

Thank you.

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