We live right on the beach, so when we go downtown or uptown, we take the blue bus. For 45 American cents, we can go just about anywhere we need to.
You know which bus to take because the stops are painted on the front window. What a genius idea to have the stops on the outside of the bus instead of the inside! No vague street names either; the destinations are clearly and concisely the names of the stops: Walmart, or Aeropuerto, or Sam’s Club. The bus roars and rattles up to your stop, opening its door before it comes to a halt. The tires are gigantic, so you take a big step off the curb and climb a steep stairway to get to the driver, who takes your money (no passes; no transfers; cash only) and hands you a damp, limp ticket made of newsprint, which nobody ever checks.
Outside the window we see glamorous resorts, tumbledown hovels, taco carts, and local businesses that sell funeral flowers, flooring, Asian foodstuffs, shoes, and shiny fabrics. It goes past the big soccer field where some coach is always torturing a team of little uniformed players in the heavy heat.
Inside, each bus is individually decorated by its driver. There’ll be a ragged front curtain for a sun visor, maybe a grimy stuffed bear lashed to the dashboard, and perhaps a religious icon, most often Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Jalisco state’s preferred virgin.
My favorite of these is a Photoshopped picture of Bus U-066, with Jesus behind it, inscribed with the Driver’s Prayer. The driver asks for patience and safety from fire and accident, to be safe from the temptation to speed, to carry everyone safely to his or her destination, and even calls upon San Cristobal, the transportation saint, at the very end. I’d ride that bus anytime.
The rest of the interior of any blue bus is usually a disaster. Filmy, cracked windows that may or may not open, hard plastic seats that are faded, possibly split, and often tagged with spray paint. An old linoleum floor that is lifting at the corners. Hot sunshine pounds on the sun-side passengers; when people leave a shady seat, somebody will slide over from the sunny side and nab it. If you’re lucky, you might get a warm wind in your face, or get to put your elbow out the window.
Mimes, guitar players, singers, and even stand-up comedians sometimes board the bus and perform for tips. The bad ones are tolerated; the good ones are applauded; they’re all tipped.
(Click any picture above to enlarge)
And what a ride! There aren’t enough words like “lurch” and “jolt” to describe it. The bus roars, screeches to brake, starts suddenly, throwing standees into somebody’s lap, barrels ahead and teases other buses by passing with one inch of breathing space. It would be fruitless to fix the suspension. The cobblestones are so destructive that it just wouldn’t last. You just gotta let it rattle.
Your fellow travelers are mothers with babies, hotel workers in uniform, cute schoolkids in uniform, people going to work, jaded expats, and in high season, a sprinkling of brave tourists. The natives help you find your way, and everybody is just tolerating the jouncing and the heat.
Here’s the best part: your blue bus is supposed to arrive every ten minutes or so. In fact, they arrive much more often. Sometimes they’re stacked up at the stop, waiting for you. Of course, if you can’t handle that level of service, there are alternatives.
You could take one of the zillion cabs, and they too are cruising for you. But that would cost you five dollars. The blue bus is one tenth of that. And there’s no charge for prayers, cute kids in uniforms, or on-board entertainment.