Monday 18 September 2023

1987 Travel Diary: Things Get Crazy on the Chicken Bus

The old school bus was now totally solidly packed with passengers, three squeezed into each bench seat and the rest standing shoulder to shoulder all the way down the aisle, but more passengers kept jamming themselves through the doorway, under the encouragement of the bus helpers.  With the seats overflowing, they were forced to squeeze those already standing in the aisle, into an even tighter mass.

One of the last to board, an old thin-mustached Mayan man wearing a fancy old pair of winged female glasses, found his place standing directly in front of me on the steps down to the bus door.  He clung tightly to the horizontal metal bar atop the barrier that separated the passenger seats from the stairs, trying to keep his balance, as The Condor darted back onto the highway.    

The bus was barreling down the mountain road with its door open.  One of the bus helpers was riding mostly outside the bus, with one foot secured on the lower step of the bus, steadying himself by hanging on to the rearview mirror mounted on the side of the bus.   I don’t know what the other helper was standing on, but he was totally outside the bus as it streaked down the highway, hanging on with both hands to the edge of an open window.

Inside the bus, all of humanity; those in stuffed into the seats and those standing tightly-packed like vertical sardines, all swayed in unison with the turns and gyrations of the bus.

Sitting beside me in the front seat was a farmer and beside him, a peasant man with a little girl on his lap.  The young girl was holding a woven plastic bag that squawked, whenever those standing in the aisle squashed against the bag, as they shifted their balance on the curves.  

Things then got even more bizarre when one of the helpers, who had been riding outside the bus, worked himself inside and up the steps.  Gripping the vertical pole at the aisle end of the low barrier beside the stairs, he put one foot on the top of the barrier in front of me and swung himself over me so that he had one foot on top of the barrier, and the other foot on the horizontal bar that ran atop the back of our seat.

He had straddled the top of the barrier and the back of our seat with his rear end directly above me, solidly propped against the rounded curve of the school bus wall.  Once secure in this three-point position, he leaned down and commenced hitting up the passengers for the bus ride ticket money.  Having collected the fare from everyone in our seat, he spider-walked himself using the tops of the seat backs, to collect from the people in the seat behind us.  In this fashion he worked himself all the way to the rear of the bus and then forward on seats on the opposite side of the aisle.  Along the way, he also collected the fare from the solidly-packed upright sardines standing in the aisle.

About this time, I noticed the head of a chicken poke out of the little girl’s bag.  Once it saw how ridiculous and chaotic the surrounding situation was outside the bag, it ducked its head back down in the bag, and I never saw its head poke out again.

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