Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Get on the Bus!

Our truck needs a new starter so until E's day off when we can get it towed and go to the mechanic together, it's back to taking the bus.  (or the bicycle, but I informed E that I only ride a bicycle November-March because of the heat).  Busses run in and out the city mostly on main roads.  They converge in an area of the city's center that is full of hardware stores, clothing boutiques, food stands, paper goods stores, plumbers, electricians, dry goods stores and a few restaurants.  If you want to go from one end of the city to the other, you have to stop and get off the bus at this point and try to figure out which bus will continue to the other side of the city.  I have had to do this, alone, and have asked the nice policemen-like bus officers that stand with their clipboards and whistles and direct bus traffic in and out of the intersection.  They seem to think there is a discernable "schedule" to these busses; they make one leave every time another arrives.  But the further you get from that crossroads, the less the bus drivers stick to any type of schedule and route.  Usually the bus approaching you as you stand on the corner (they'll pick you up anywhere, not just at marked bus stops) has its route written on the windshield...sometimes not, or sometimes it's not planning to follow what's written. 

The busses themselves are a hodge-podge of old baby school busses, long modern city busses, vans converted into busses with the sliding side door made to be automatic. You never know what will come rambling down the road.  Or who will be inside.  The bus drivers own their own busses, and just pay a tax to the city to drive the route and make a stop at the city center crossroads of busses.  The bus driver is usually male, 30-60 years old wearing jeans, boots and a t-shirt.  Sometimes they have cowboy hats! They're usually very nice and patient when you ask them if they are, in fact, planning to take the route marked on the windshield.     My favorite people to ride with are children (provided they're well behaved and they usually are) and elderly people.  Somtimes it's a bonus and I get to observe a grandmother with her grandchild the whole way to my destination.  Busses make excellent opportunities for people-watching. 

But just like any city during rush hour - these busses can get crowded with people standing in the aisles.  As the bus goes over a speed bump the collective mass of bodies kind of sways together.  You can imagine the personal space rules do not apply very often here in Baja.  Most times, it feels cozy. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it. Busses are transformed into ovens in the summertime - i swear the temperature must get to 110* inside.  the little wimpy windows made for schoolchildren do not allow air flow.  If you can find another means of transportation in the summer, do it.  I seriously think I was hallucinating from heat exhaustion on one summer bus ride with E as we made our wayout to Home Depot (to look at air conditioners, ironically).  All I remember is that I couldn't hold my head up and E had to shake me to tell me we were arrived. I don't know how other people do it.

 In fact, one of the first mysteries of Baja that I discovered upon my arrival here was that for some reason I was the only person  dying a slow death on a very hot bus ride in July.  Every pore of my body (and I mean every) was just dripping and others on the bus seemed content in their jeans, long pants, long sleeves, hats, etc.  Women were chatting with each other with children on their laps.  What was I missing???  This initial observation of mexican women on the bus has been replicated on many other occasions as I have observed Mexican ladies in Zumba class, running on the Malecon, sitting at the beach and standing in a crowd watching a performance and all have been comfortable.  Not red in the face and dripping like I was.  I am a firm believer that Mexican females are born without sweat glands!! So unfair....

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