The Great Venezuelan Bus Odyssey (Part #6)

If you have been following these series of blog posts so far, you may have noticed I closed my last one with the following curious words:

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen; the main event is about to unravel.
Showtime starts with my next post…”

You’ll find them quite fitting in a moment or two.

Venezuelan buses don’t run under the strict rules of a schedule. They brake at their boarding areas, their engines running idle for fifteen minutes or more, burning tons of cheap fuel (we pay less than 25 cents per gallon for it down here) and waiting until all seats are finally taken. There’s no “this-bus-must-depart-at-eight-flat” nonsense crap in Venezuela; the bus must fill the last empty spot or no cigar, Jack.

Now, that’s if you’re lucky to find a bus at the bus station these days. You see, as I said earlier, Caucagua (the small town where this happens) has grown in population by a tenfold during the past decade. Since there are no jobs in the immediate area, all these people must work somewhere else, having to commute to their workplaces… and the bus lines have never added a single extra unit to their transportation fleet during the same time.

So, this is how this particular scenario goes: on the designated boarding platform, people are forming in disarranged queues while waiting for a bus that never comes, craning their necks like ostriches on methadone to see if there’s one coming their way (as if performing this action would make a bus appear miraculously. Suddenly, the quite-disarranged-already queue grows more chaotic; individuals who had been waiting on the sideline, nonchalantly begin to sneak in, seeping into the line of waiting people (their codename down here is coleados, for they’re the ones that think themselves too smart to stand in line).

A bus is coming!

Then all hell breaks loose… remember that I said the main event was about to begin? Well, this is it. Trying to board a bus in Venezuela nowadays is like one of those Taiwanese Legislative House Donnybrooks, where there are no-holds-barred and everything goes.

(I wanted to share a video that conveys the ambience of waiting in line down here, but since I can’t afford the premium charges, here’s the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opm3zMscStE )

Punches are pulled; someone is going to return home with a shiner or a loose tooth, perhaps…

Isn’t living in an underdeveloped Third World country great?

Edwin Stark
Signing Off

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