A few more bus stories…

Peter Saudek - Ecuador


October 29, 2010

There’s something about riding the public transportation bus system every day that has really intrigued me. What’s most interesting about the bus is the make-up of the people on it. There are women in indigenous clothing selling their goods, men in full suits and ties, six year-old girls riding alone to school, preachers, and female security guards commuting to work. To name a few. I ride the bus four times a day, and every ride some small drama seems to unfold within such tight quarters.

A couple of weeks ago when I hopped on in the morning there was a man standing in the front shouting his sermon to the packed bus. The vibe of the bus was not too cheery at 7:30AM while this man was squeezing his way through the pack on the bus, yelling about needing Jesus in our lives, and asking for money. To my surprise, a few bus stops later two other GCY female fellows boarded the back of the bus. As soon as they got on, this man stopped in mid-sentence and began to shout, in a general translation from Spanish, “To the white women in the back. Watch where you put your hands and what you do, for you are of the satanic devil, and you are the reason for our hell!” The bus was completely silent at that point, as most people seemed to have uncomfortable expressions on their faces. The preacher got off the bus shortly after, but before he did, a number of people on the bus gave him money and took his pamphlets with excerpts from the Bible on them.

Just today a man went around the bus handing out stationary cards for people to send to loved ones, but there was no indication that he was trying to sell them, as he was handing them out but not collecting any money. He went back to the front of the bus. Then about one minute later he announced he would be coming around to collect the money for the cards people had just ¨bought.¨ Some people did not pay, and then he began to plead his case about needing this money for a number of things in his life.

Environmental note: the pollution in Quito is overwhelmingly present, and behind each bus is a thick black cloud of smoke pouring out of the bottom that force many people to wear bandanas over their mouths in the city. I found out in a lecture that it’s a law for these buses to have their exhaust pipes on the top of the bus. However, every single bus I´ve seen in Quito has their exhaust pipe attached at the bottom, therefore breaking the law. The reason is that the engine loses 10% of its power if the exhaust pipe is on the top instead of the bottom. But I thought, a law is a law, right? I suppose it’s all relative.

That about wraps it up for the October Quito bus stories. There will probably be more to come from my next city, Ibarra!

Peter Saudek