They’re building a light rail here in town. When it’s done – many, many years from now – it is supposed to connect a good part of the city to itself, finally making mass transit an option for thousands of residents here in Houston. If you’ve ever been to these parts of Texas you’ll appreciate what a daunting task this is considering most of us prefer driving our own vehicles anywhere we need to go. For good reason, también. As it is now, riding the bus to get from point A to point B pretty much implies losing the majority of your day to just that: traveling ever so slowly from one point to the next, until you eventually make it back to your final destination.
That kind of got me thinking about how differently Mexicans approach mass transportation. We don’t so much consider the infrastructure, as we do the convenience and speed of getting people where they need to go as soon as possible. 1) Because it’s good for business, and 2) because it’s good for business! The more people that can be transported, the more money that can be made. It’s that simple.
In hindsight, that would have probably been good information to know before we set foot in a microbus in Monterrey, Nuevo León for the first time almost 10 years ago. In all fairness, though, let me reiterate this first and only experience of mine in a Mexican microbus was almost 10 years ago. For all I know these buses might be completely different by now. Calm and relaxing y toda la cosa.
Though I doubt it sinceramente.
As soon as we jumped on the bus, la prima yelled ¡pero agarrense! We did so kind of nonchalantly, still gazing out of the window, taking in the city of Monterrey, one block at a time as we trailed rapidly behind her. This was one of our first outings as tourists into the city after all. We definitely weren’t ready for the bumpy road ahead. Así nomás we jolted forward and then back as the bus driver hit the gas and then the brake almost back to back. Just as quickly we were on the move again, bumping into one another, desperately looking for an empty seat where we could actually sit down and not hang on for dear life in the aisles of that bus. There weren’t any. All the seats were already taken. We were horrified! Scared beyond belief at what this driver was doing with all of us on board.
Swerving from one lane to the next, jumping in front of other vehicles and especially other buses, racing apparently to make it first to the next bus stop. Turns out whoever made it first to pick up the next bunch of passengers earned their bus fare and so on and so on along the road. Pretty soon my stomach was turning and churning in every direction, my head was getting a little light and dizzy, and all I could think about was when we were going to get off this roller coaster of a ride. “Is this legal?” I remember asking. My cousin, all the while holding on to the top rail not even moving from one jolt to the next, looking as calm and collected as all of the other regular passengers of the microbus, quietly just laughed at me. None of them seemed phased at all by the erratic driving. Later she told me this was normal.
When we finally got off I was ready to throw up or at least throw myself on the floor until everything around me stopped spinning. We didn’t and instead just kept moving until it was finally time to jump back on this bus to ride all the way back to our relatives’ home in Monterrey. It was such an awful experience that I never again wanted to ride those buses, at least not the few times I’ve been back to Monterrey since then. Luckily, shortly after she purchased her first car and we haven’t had to ride the microbuses since then… though her driving isn’t much better.
Pero por lo menos I can yell at her even if she doesn’t like it.
Now I’m kind of glad we’re getting a light rail!