By April Pepper López from the August 2011 Edition
Taking the bus in Manzanillo is wonderfully easy. Driving a car would probably top the list of Best Ways to Get Around but it’s a reliable option. Buses come every few minutes and get you where you want to go with ease (provided you’re not travelling with small children, when it’s raining or when you’re already late) and what could occasionally be called alarming speed.
Bus drivers themselves are generally in good spirits considering they drive around all day without air conditioning. I can remember one morning leaving the house with no coins, just a $200.00 peso bill. The first driver at 6:30 am didn’t have change for my bill, but as I began to step off the bus unable to pay my fare he stopped me with a smile and said Mañana and let me on his bus for free.
Later than afternoon I attempted to board a second bus to get to my second job still with my $200.00 peso bill in hand. Same thing happened….Mañana. After returning to my first job to finish my shift, and then finally taking the bus home that evening, I had stepped off my fourth bus that day, with the same $200.00 peso bill in hand and the fourth Mañana still echoing in my ears.
There’s something so neighbourly about what happened to me that day that I have really come to think of my bus drivers and I as understanding a little about one another. I don’t think they’d put Bus Driver at the top of a list entitled My Dream Jobs anymore than I would put Riding the Bus at the top of my Greatest Ways to Get to Work list.
I think we each understand that none of us are particularly enjoying ourselves when we see one another, and that’s enough to make us exchange warm smiles.
These days I carry a government issued card that gets me a 50% discount on the bus. Being an underpaid teacher has its rewards. Comically, a 50% discount is fitting for me as a person of my height and build really only receives half the space required to sit down on the buses here anyway. This is especially evident on my way home from work while I sit side-saddle with my 2 preschoolers, their 2 backpacks and my own book bag sardined onto one bus seat with 113 other passengers on board at the hottest time of the day. One typically hot afternoon we board the bus, all three of us stack ourselves onto one seat and I try not to take up half the aisle with my legs when I hear this:
(offensive expletive) Gringa! ….
I look up to see the bus driver gesture to me as he continues yelling to no one in particular about the Gringa who doesn’t think she should have to pay full price like everyone else…blah blah blah.
If I had been by myself I probably wouldn’t have done anything, except maybe smile brightly at my fellow passengers as they stared at me while I pretend not to understand their back and forth about me. But on this day, while my tired and sweaty toddlers sat on what lap I could muster for them listening to these strangers go on about what a cheap Gringa their mother was, I did something.
I’d love to tell you that I marched right up to him and gave him a piece of my mind. But instead, I told him in Spanish that I thought he was a rude man and I got off his bus. I caught another bus home that day, and when I got there I cried. I’m not a cheap Gringa, I’m a generous person accused of being the opposite by one of the very same bus drivers with whom I thought I had an understanding.
Remember guys? I know your job is tough, you know riding the bus isn’t always ideal? We have an understanding! We’re neighbourly!
*Sigh* Should I spend less time worrying about what the bus driving community thinks of me? Probably. It’s just that sometimes a person wants to be just another person on the bus and not ‘The Cheap White Person’ on the bus.
Maybe I get a smile and a Mañana and ride the bus for free, maybe I get called a cheap gringa and step off the bus in tears, or maybe he just says buenos dias back to me, and accepts my discounted fare. Whichever the case, my daily commute in Manzanillo is definitely a Wild Card and the Wild Card always makes the hand more exciting.