Bem vindos a Portugal!

Arriving in Lisbon has become a bit of a routine for me. I get off the plane, make my way out of the passport control, baggage hall and customs into the arrivals foyer. From there I walk down to the bus stop and wait for the number 45 that will take me to Cais do Sodre, from where I catch a tram to Alcantara. On a good day, the entire journey - from leaving the plane to throwing myself on my bed - takes around an hour and is almost always without incident. I say almost always, because last night's journey was with incident. Everything was going as normal: I got to the bus stop and killed the few minutes waiting for the #45 by taking a few shots of the airport building. The bus came and I got on. So far, so good. With only four passengers, including myself, the bus was fairly quiet for 9pm on a Saturday night. No matter, I thought, fewer passengers means quicker journey, so I settled down and watched Lisbon pass by. We got to Entrecampos, when a boy of about 19 arrived breathless at the bus stop, and yelled at the driver to go. In his mirror, the driver could obviously see someone else running to catch the bus, and must have assumed that it was the teenager's friend, so he waited. The teenager pleaded with him to close the doors and drive: the driver insisted on waiting. The second teenager jumped on and the first teenager made for the back of the bus, running backwards with his hands in front of him like a shield, calling on the driver to open the doors and let him off. All of a sudden, the second teenager launches a large stone, the intended target of which was, presumably, the first teenager. Unfortunately, his aim was poor, and the stone headed straight towards my knee. Unable to move because of the bags I was carrying, I was spared injury by the glass screen in front of the seat. The safety glass shattered into thousands of pieces as I sat looking at the destruction at my feet. Slowly, incredulity at what had just happened turned into bemusement. I stood up, brushed the broken glass off of me and my bags, and moved to a different seat. The stone thrower had gone, chased by his intended victim: the driver got out of his cabin and surveyed the damage, while the middle aged couple behind me asked if I was okay. This seemed to spark the driver into action, and he asked me if I was hurt. When I told everyone I was uninjured, the couple told me that this was the first time they had used the buses, and they had only done so because their son had assured them that it was perfectly safe. In the meantime, the driver removed what was left of the glass screen, and returned to his chair to radio the police. By this time, the first teenager had returned, breathless (having chased his would be attacker), and asked me if I was okay. I just said that I was fine, and that this was some welcome to Portugal. The bus drove off without further incident, although newly boarding passengers did wonder why there was broken glass everywhere. I got back to the flat at 10pm, safe and sound.

(PS. I must add that I have been a regular user of Lisbon's public transport system for the past ten years, and that I have been on buses, trains, trams and the Metro at all hours of the day and night. This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me, and I have never heard any of my friends or colleagues say anything bad. The Lisbon public transport system is generally excellent: it is cheap, clean and (usually) safe. Unfortunately, there are nutters everywhere, and things like this are bound to happen now and again in city of Lisbon's size.)


Post a Comment

<< Home