The myriad delights of Mexican Buses

The collectivos pile up on the main drag out of Chihuahua. Big sturdy buses with chrome grills and color wheel paint jobs. Driver takes my fare and make change from a selection of coins on the dashboard. He is talking on the phone. He is eating corn on the cob. He has opened the door and is chatting with the next bus over.

I squeeze in. At each stop we shuffle a few millimeters tighter. In front of the super mercado, a new crush of pasajeros.

Correrle, correrle! comes the shout from outside. We squeeze tighter still. When the bus moves, a kid is clinging barely inside the open door. Blinky blue and red lights give the whole affair a disco flair. Picture of Jesus.

At my stop, I amoeba through the maze of bodies. Desculpeme, desculpeme. I hop out and give the driver a wave. He nods and the whole party drives off musica blaring.

Crossing a few lanes of collectivo traffic, I enter the long distance bus terminal. Omnibus. ARD. ETN. Each offers speed, comfort, economy, novel destinations. I step up to the counter. Donde vas? Options galore! Destinations in white print on black plastic with a convenient cascade of departure times.

I namedrop a charming colonial city to the south. What time? Now? Ah, later. We have six, six-thirty, seven. Oh 7:22? We have that too. She inputs the unit and is already buying me a ticket. Wait, wait! Un momento!

I amble to the next counter for a price check. The same treatment, Donde vas? A flash of hands over the keyboard. I go with Omnibus. It sounds worldly.

Toilets are 5 pesos at the bus terminal. I clink the coin slot, setting off an alarm that turns a security gate. I am dispensed to the bathroom like a can of soda. No toilet paper of course, but I’m a practiced Mexico hand now and have brought my own. Wait, what’s this? Mom has sent daughter running for t.p.? How civilized! One centralized roll has been provided at the entrance for your wiping pleasure. Wipe, fold and place in the plastic bin with the other folded bits of poo paper.

Ten minutes after boarding my first bus in Mexico, we’re rubbernecking a four car wreck out the window. Spanish dubbed movies play incessantly overhead, of the genre loud, violent and American. Vin Diesel smirks, swerves, and bulges his muscles but I have long lost track of the plot. The first movie has car crashes, the second plane crashes, the third zombies. The volume occasionally creeps louder–a jiggly knob somewhere. I stare out the window into the wheat fields of Chihuahua’s altiplano, but the zombies are inescapable.

My second bus is long haul, long distance, overnight. I board the bus, along with a baseball hatted hombre carrying a plastic cooler.

Refrescos? Burritos muy rico? Jugos? Sodas?

We are hermetically sealed into the bus by a door separating driver from cargo. The movie is made for TV. Spanish dubbing does not cease until 10:30 but I have already slept through the morena noise for a couple hours.

The seats are plush and clean with pleathery bits. I drop the seat back and splay out. My seatmate across the aisle has laid across both seats. I one up him by dropping the other seat back and curling up sideways.

BRRNNNGH! I’m roughly awakened by an eighteen wheeler passing, engines blaring. A small poky bit in the small of my back reminds me I’m not wearing my seatbelt.

I attempt to use the W.C. Caballeros on the left, exclusivo damas on the right. A man’s legs extend crosswise across the aisle just in front of the door. Thwarted. Guess I’ll hold it. I snuggle back into my seat nest like a hibernating rodent.

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