Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bus Driver

If I had been born in rural Nicaragua, I think I would have wanted to be a bus driver. Now, hear me out on this one. First of all, the bus system in Nicaragua is not the tame, government-sponsored affair that it is in most US cities. Bus drivers here are cowboys. Basically, to start a bus route, you get a group of guys together, at least one of whom knows how to drive and at least one of whom can do repairs, and you buy an old school bus from the US. You paint it and decorate the crap out of it with stickers and religious iconography and anything else that strikes your fancy, you affix a metal rack to the top of it, you give your bus a cool name, and you go to work.

For those of us in rural areas, the buses are a lifeline. Not only are they good for getting into the nearby cities, they are also good for sending messages, refilling cooking gas, and hauling anything you might buy in the city. These buses also transport firewood, fresh milk, and live animals up to the size of a goat.

Fortunately for me, buses pass by eight times a day in either direction. In the morning there’s El Pitón (the Big Honker), the Red Bus, Úbeda, and Santa Inez. In the afternoon it’s Chico’s bus, Confite (Hard Candy), Wilo, and Chepita.

The reason I think I would have liked to be a bus driver, or at least an assistant on a bus, is that these guys are local celebrities. Everyone in all the towns along the bus route knows their names. The women talk about whether they are good-looking, trustworthy, flirtatious, or up to no good. Also, a lot of times these guys are ripped, since they spend all day climbing around on the bus, ferrying people’s heavy belongings up to the roof rack and back down again. Not only are they strong, they are also chivalrous. They hold babies for women as they find their seats and help old people on and off the bus. And they walk around with big wads of cash from all the bus fares they have collected. Basically, they are really, really cool.

Everyone once in a while you see a female assistant on a bus, but it is rare. I have this idea that it would be really cool to start an all-female bus cooperative. The bus could be painted pink, and it could have a name like Mamasita. I would ride that bus. Hell, I would drive that bus.