Was I Almost Taken For a Ride For Being Taken For a Ride?
T he wind was persistently trying to cut through me on yet another cold, blustery and grey winter day in April as I stood at the 17 Stycznia bus stop waiting for the bus to arrive.
Bus route 175 is rather convenient for traveling from Warsaw Chopin Airport to central Warsaw and the Old Town. Buses typically travel every ten minutes or so; but this was a Saturday morning, so the wait was longer.
Was I Almost Taken For a Ride For Being Taken For a Ride?
When I checked out of the Hampton by Hilton Warsaw Airport hotel property, I informed the agent behind the front desk that I wanted to take the bus into central Warsaw.
“Take route 175 bus,” he said as he wrote down the number on light mint green “sticky” paper.
“How much is the bus fare?” I asked.
“4.40 złoty” was his response.
I had a pair of ten złoty notes; so I wanted to get change for one of them for the bus.
“You can give to the bus driver,” he assured me. “He will give you change.”
When the bus arrived, I showed the bus driver one of my ten złoty notes. He basically shook his head and waved his hand sideways in a quick gesture as though he was not interested in changing it as the bus started to lurch forward.
I found that to be rather odd.
The bus was crowded; but there was one seat in the front immediately behind the bus driver, which I took, trying to figure out how to pay for my fare. There was no machine of any kind in the front of the bus which would take my money; and I prefer to pay my way wherever I go — even if the bus fare is the equivalent of approximately $1.25.
I arrived at my destination. I never did pay my fare.
Avoid This Con on Bus 175 Route in Warsaw?
“If you get on the bus without a ticket and try to buy one from the driver, chances are he will not take the money or pretend not to understand and get on the radio to alert the road inspectors up ahead that you’re riding the bus without a ticket, which results in a fine. Always buy your ticket ahead of time.”
That was the bizarre advice I later stumbled upon in this article from this past February at SmarterTravel…
…but that does not add up to me. Why would the driver of a bus want to do that in the first place? Would he get some sort of a kickback from a road inspector who successfully fines a rogue passenger who does not pay his bus fare?
Robberies by Gangs?
The article further states that its route is “especially attractive for thieves.” The ride usually takes approximately 35 minutes; and it advises to “get a return ticket so you don’t have to worry about it later on, especially if you don’t speak Polish. As soon as you get on the bus locate the yellow controller box and insert your ticket.”
Whenever riding any form of mass transportation in any location around the world, you should always be aware of your surroundings so that none of your valuable belongings are stolen by a pickpocket. You should also keep valuables secure out of sight. That advice from the article is not exclusive to bus route 175 in Warsaw…
…but it also states that “robberies by gangs have also been known to happen on bus No. 175, some in the middle of the day. And you can forget about anyone helping you if this happens. Typically no one will intervene. In some cases, thieves do not look the part. They may be well dressed in business suits to appear unsuspecting. It is recommended to sit on the bus and not stand, as standing gives thieves easier access to pockets, bags, and luggage.”
My Second — and Last — Time on Bus Route 175
I had the opportunity to ride on a bus on that route one more time — I must have waited 20 minutes for it to head back towards the airport…
…and this time, I purchased a ticket in advance, just in case. I found the yellow machine inside of the center of the bus, which was obscured from my sight during my first bus ride due to it being crowded. On this ride, all of the seats were taken; so I found a place near the door which was secure to put my bag.
A man wearing a light-colored flat cap and blue jacket sidles next to me. The bus is crowded; but not to the point of standing within the personal space of someone — and he was uncomfortably close.
Some mumblings in Polish came out of the mouth of this middle-aged man, who remotely resembled Phil Collins and stood approximately five feet eight inches tall. I thought nothing of it — until I realized that he kept mumbling; and he was apparently directing them to me.
I initially did not respond; but when the mumblings gradually increased in volume, I attempted to gesture to him more than once that I did not understand Polish. He pressed even closer and started saying things in Polish which I could not understand, slapping the back of his hand on my chest occasionally and becoming more aggressive.
My attempts to convince him that I did not understand Polish were not effective; so to avoid any confrontation, I completely ignored him — not even looking at him or acknowledging him. This continued for several stops. No one aboard the bus intervened — not that anyone probably should have intervened because I am uncertain as to what he was trying to say to me and uncertain as to what anyone else could have done anyway.
He finally left the bus — but not before slapping his hand hard on my back and grumbling some final thought. I felt relief at that point. I had no idea if he was a member of one of those aforementioned “gangs”; if I did something about which I might have been unaware that annoyed him; or if he simply was not in the right state of mind at that moment.
Public transportation is usually safe, easy and inexpensive around the world much of the time; but it does have its inherent drawbacks. In this case, the bus line was convenient to both my origination and destination — and for me, that was the best option…
…but I find that aforementioned scam perpetuated by bus drivers to purposely get road inspectors to fine passengers willing to pay for their bus fares hard to believe.
Still — regardless of whatever form of ground transportation you choose to take to get around — remain aware of your surroundings at all times; keep your valuables secure and hidden from sight; ensure that you are not overpaying for your transportation; and know as much information as possible before you embark on your ride.
All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.