It doesn’t take an anthropologist to realize that the bus in
People lean on you. Unlike in the West where touching people you don’t know in crowded spaces is considered taboo, here you will not only get touched, but often leaned on while riding the bus. People will grab an arm or shoulder and use you as leverage when they are about to fall. You can even have your head touched while it lays on your seat’s headrest. I know, I know. This sounds unimaginable; but here it is acceptable. There are actually times when you’ll feel little fingers rubbing your hair while you lay there. Or, people resting their hands on the top of your chair will bounce their fingers off your forehead when you hit a pothole. I know my cousin Maisha and some other people are gasping out loud right now, but it’s true. When a person is standing on the bus, they will always lean on someone’s seat. I feel like an inordinate amount of the time it happens to be mine, but I could just be paranoid. In the process of leaning on the seat, they inevitably lean on the seat’s occupant. No matter. Here, it is not considered an inconsideration. You will be ruthlessly leaned on and/or bumped in the middle of your R.E.M. cycle without having the person apologize for waking you up or even look in your direction. The rules of engagement here are different, and commonly accepted. As long as I’m not the only one being mistakenly slapped or nudged out of my sleep, who am I to complain?
I learned about the varying conceptions of personal space during my first time in
Here, overnight bus trips usually feature one group of young backpackers who got drunk before they got on. This process usually includes some kind of hard liquor. They couldn’t pick tonight to just drink beer, nooo. They need to have something strong since it’s going to be a long ride. They want to get twisted. Minutes after leaving the station they befoul the bathroom. In general, you don’t want to use the bathroom. Take care of your business before you get on the bus. Take your contacts out in your seat, eat a good dinner and bring your water, but don’t drink too much. Need nothing from the back of the bus. Once, and no I’m not lying, somebody broke out a guitar at 12:30 am. The other feature attraction of long bus rides is the movies. Let’s see. Last trip from
Like many countries,
Yesterday, Sylvie and I got lucky. A guy hops on the bus with his hat on sideways to the back (good sign). He’s carrying a small, black gym bag. Don’t worry, this is typical. It’s only after 7 minutes into his routine that we even know he’s selling galletas (cookies). He’s working the crowd really well. Bus riders are used to these presentations, so you’ve got to be good to have the group openly laughing and watching in audience-like fashion. First, he tells us he used to be a criminal, but there was too much competition. Later in his act he tells us he’s actually Noboa’s son (the richest man in
The “wife” starts making eyes at me. You know how there are those moments in life when someone is about to be embarrassed, and you pray to God it’s not you, but you eagerly wait to see someone else get embarrassed so you can laugh, and then you get a direct unmistakable signal that verifies beyond a shadow of a doubt that yes, indeed, it will be you? Just as the “dammit, nope, it’s me” realization came, “she” is there leaning over me, saying “ummm hummm, uhhh huhhh, ooohhh”, and everyone is laughing. Thankfully, my wife is there for me to look at and pretend the event is not happening. After that, they finish their routine and the husband verifies for the passengers and driver that his partner is not a homosexual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They then go passenger-by-passenger threatening them with attention as they refuse to take back their cookies instead of the money that’s supposed to replace them. At the first woman who refuses, they stop and the de-wigged “wife” starts making Jerry Lewis faces at her. She was gonna pay, it was just a question of how painful it was going to be (sidenote: Sylvie and I are watching seasons of 24 on dvd. I’m Jack. She’s Chloe. Or, I’m President Logan and she’s his crazy wife.). These guys were fantastic at extortion. They sold 5 times more cookies than any other salesmen I’ve seen thus far. Just the threat of them pausing too long by your seat had people, particularly men, whipping change out of their pockets. I guess that’s one of the small prices you pay for being homophobic. I paid, but it was more out of appreciation and admiration of the show. Anytime someone puts that much thought, time and effort into selling you a snack pack of cookies, you need to come up off your $0.25.