In Puebla, if you want to be a bus driver, you buy the route and the bus; this means you can decorate your bus however you want. Not within reason. For example, some have dragons on the back, and six Virgencitas in the front. Others have deer feet hanging, and 4 Virgencitas. Still others have neon stars and 3 Jesuses. The important thing to note is the proliferation of Jesuses and Virgencitas in any given bus. One is perfectly normal. Two is a little excessive. But if you have to put up 2 Jesuses and 4 Virgen de Guadelupes, maybe you should go to a defensive driving course, because your passengers should not need that much looking after.
The bus costs 5 pesos, which is like 42 cents. This is a good price. They’re trying to make is 8 pesos, and i don’t know if people are in more of an uproar with regards to the fiscal increase, or the dilemma it’s going to cause with change. Change, in Puebla, is like water. Everyone needs it, it’s a pain to get, and if someone has it they do NOT want to give it up. I had to break a 500 with a 16 peso cappuccino and the resulting debacle has now ensured that i can never again return to the cafe in Paseo de San Francisco. If the bus was 8 pesos, people would pay with 10 peso coins, and the driver would need a ton of 1 and 2 peso coins. I feel confident that I can keep paying 42 cents for my bus ride.
Since many buses stop at each stop, the bus won’t pick you up unless you flag it down. The accepted signal is an outstretched arm with the extended pointer. If you’re feeling evil, you can stretch the middle finger; no one would notice. If you’re waiting and you’re tired and you think it will probably stop, it won’t. If you get nervous that it won’t stop and put your hand out 3 times and stand in the middle of the street, it will pull over and 10 people will descend.
To get off, you must either press the button or tell the driver. You can get off at any street. ANY street. If someone got off on 21 sur, you can get off at 19. And if those two people got off, you can still ask him to stop at 17. A bus ride can technically take a very long time.
The seats of the bus are in 2s facing forwards. The seats are pretty small, and a lot of people flop over. Seats are a hot commodity, ranked as follows: Window seat – desirable, Aisle seat – EXTREMELY desirable. If you get on and someone is sitting in an aisle seat, they will NOT under any circumstances, slide over. They’ll squish their legs up and you’ll have to straddle them (at this point the bus will have lurched into crazy and you might get a little tongue action in just the right spot), lug your bags over their head, and plop down. If you get off before they do, the same will be repeated on exit. Arduous, I tell you.
Why? Why don’t they just slide over? Oh, I have theories. First of all, the dismounting of the bus. Since you have to call your own stop, it’s easier to just pop up into the aisle. Also, the buses get crowded, and that’s one less person you have to push through to reach your final destination.
Secondly, thieves, or ladrones, which is a much cooler word. If a ladron gets on the bus and you’re trapped in the window seat, there’s more of a chance of getting robbed, especially if the thief is in your particular set of seats.
Finally, maybe it’s just a little triumph in the day of the average poblano. That, even with all the bullshit you’re dealing with, you got the outside seat. Now step, bitch. Keep in mind this is a very New York way to think.
On the price sign above the door is says: “$5 – pasaje. $3 – pasaje nino. $0 – descapacitados.” How nice, I thought, handicapped people ride free. After thinking for a minute, though, I realized, that there would be absolutely NO way for a handicapped person to ever in their entire handicapped life get on a bus here. The aisle is anorexic, there’s no room for a wheelchair, there’s no way the driver, who pulls off while people are still jumping out the back and clinging to the sensor in the front, is going to park the bus and maneuver a handicapped individual into the bus. They may as well have a sign that says “Black people – $0” or “Unicorns – $0” because they’d never have to honor that, either.
All in all, I love the bus here. I get a panoramic view of Popocatepetl every morning on the way to school, they play the radio stations I like, and it’s quicker than walking. More than that, though, I feel part of something bigger, as though I’m enduring something, persevering: united we stand, and together, on the 29, we’ll keel into the Atoyac River.