Alas, the Mini-Bus has become extinct in recent years. Instead we now have the Monorail and the LRT - and even worse traffic jams. Nonetheless I shall include this chapter for the historical record...
If a Klang Valley resident tells you she goes to work in a BMW, look out for the twinkle in her eye. She probably means a Bas Mini Wilayah - the Federal Territory's trusty mini-bus service - the most popular and economical way of getting around. But forget about comfort. As for safety... well, overloaded as they invariably are and piloted by daredevilishly exuberant characters, these mini-buses don't look too reassuring. Yet the drivers all seem to have guardian angels aboard, disguised as conductors, because I don't recall more than a couple of serious mini-bus accidents in all the years they've been operating.
Watching a crowd of commuters at a bus-stop, it's easy to tell the veteran Mini-Bus Hopper from the novice. The experienced one maintains an expression of absolute boredom, never showing the faintest trace of anxiety or anticipation. She knows all the routes and the peculiarities of each driver and his mini-bus so thoroughly that she can time her arrivals and departures to within 15 seconds - switching buses like a trapeze act. She has learnt how to board her bus at the traffic light and save herself a mad undignified rush to the stop, cleverly avoiding the usual stampede.
Most amazing, however, is the calm, efficient way she proceeds to pay the conductor, take her ticket, pocket the change, stay firmly on both feet while hanging by one hand in the lurching, shuddering, sardine-packed bus - and at the same time glare at the cheeky chap behind her, without losing her cool for an instant. And somehow she always manages to stand beside a passenger who will vacate his seat within two stops.
Now, the novice at the terminal will foolishly scamper aboard the very first mini-bus he spots bearing the desired route number; and he'll whip out his fare even before he's asked - and sit there sweating and swearing for the next 20 minutes while the driver holds out for more passengers. Just about then a second mini-bus, already quite full and bearing the same route number, rolls up from behind and pauses at the curb for a few seconds - just enough time for our veteran to hop on - before moving off again with an impudent toot-toot of triumph. Having parted with 50 sen for the fare, there's nothing the novice can do except be patient and pray that the Bollywood version of Michael Jackson won't accompany him all the way home on the mini-bus muzak service.