Helping Out

My daughter and I were on the bus in Split. It was Saturday and hot. That time of day when the summer afternoon sneakily slips into evening. As we shared the front seat I could’t help but overhear a group of tourists come in and ask the bus driver how much a ticket costs. His response sowed some fruitful seeds of confusion.

‘Five tickets,’ the driver replied, holding up his palm to show the correct number. Though he misunderstood the question, he astutely assessed that the five people were a family. ‘Five kuna. Okay,’ a member of the group replied and they proceeded to search for the incorrect amount of money to buy the tickets.

Saving the day?

As the scene unfolded I felt a sense of responsibility welling up inside of me. ‘Duty,’ some might say. I was like Superman watching a train heading towards the broken bridge, speeding towards the abyss. I-I- I had to do something. I stood up, told my daughter: ‘Wait here.’ And leapt to the family in a single bound (because they were less than half a meter away). They were now really struggling to find the correct change. They were showing the bus driver an amount and he was shaking his head. Chaos! Confusion! It all filled the air.

‘The bus ticket,’ I said, placing my hands heroically on my hips, ‘Is eleven kuna!’ Relief washed over the family’s faces, and they quickly found the correct amount to purchase their five tickets. I swept back to my seat and sat next to my daughter. The bus then set out and we made our short journey home.  Victory!

Observing

Croatia is not an easy country to visit. The culture, the language, is just hard to adapt to during a short vacation. I wonder if tourists can even see the true essence of Croatia. Or is the country’s charm obstructed by little inconveniences, that fuel petty complaints: a lot of places don’t take credit cards, the waiters ignore you, the rocks on the beach are hot and sharp, and there are… stairs, and crowds, and heat, and so on.

No, I don’t think it’s easy being a tourist in Croatia. Walking through Split I see groups of foreigners who looked exhausted from their vacation. An aura of weariness surrounds them, confusion dances in their eyes as they sit huddled on benches, or walk like zombies, dragging their suitcases like they’re carrying a curse.

And so, when I can, if I can help save a lost soul by telling them the price for a bus ticket, I do. I hope that doing so will reduce the mild frustrations that fill their day and help these guests begin to see the Croatia I see (I also enjoy indulging in delusions of grandeur that make my little actions seem heroic). I don’t think Croatia should cater to tourists’ every convenience. After all, part of the experience is dealing with what foreigners find inexplicable, such as long coffees and propuh. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt for residents to offer a hand. So here’s a kind of Public Service Announcement: if you see a tourist who looks in need, go ahead and help them out. Help them see Croatia beyond the inconvenience.

*The opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of HRT.