Strange Bus Ride: Transportation in Santiago, Chile

Strange Bus Ride: Transportation in Santiago, Chile

By Todd Legler

The wheels screetch as the chariot comes to a stop. I’ve depended on these yellow beasts for the past week to take me from point A to point B. Unfortunately they seem to have a mind of their own and often skip right to point Z dropping me in unknown lands.

I climb a few steps to meet the driver’s tired gaze. I pay my fair and grab my change while I trip over an old ladies grocery cart, thoughtfully left in the aisle for idiots like me to fall on as the bus takes off. She smiles and I smile back despite the unpleasant words pushing through my head. I pick myself up and find a seat near the front. “And now a word from your local chemist” blares across the radio as the bus breaks to a sharp stop.

“Ladies and Gentlemen” says a man that hops on … “Eat more bananas” says the chemist on the radio. “I have an offer for you today that you can’t possibly refuse” yells the man with a card-board box in his right hand while his left one desperately attempts to keep the rest of his body balanced as the bus slaloms through traffic. “For those of you that care for your feet, as should every decent individual, I have beautiful, brand new, extendable socks. Furry on the outside, soft on the inside, they come as trios or they get lonely, three for the price of five with a special rubber duck and an exotic animal of your choice.”

He sells a few socks, ducks and Australian water-bugs before leaving his place to a huge pair of overalls hanging from a white face with a red nose. I just now notice that the really annoying sound echoing through my skull is only an 80’s synthesizer effect from a remix version of the Ghost Busters sound track crackling though the speakers … “how appropriate,” I think to myself.

“How’s everyone feeling this evening?” asks the sad-looking clown with a huge painted smile on his face, as a few people jump off the moving bus. I had heard of ‘clown-phobia,’ but I didn’t realize the suicidal tendency it paired with. I later learned that jumping off on the role is an obligation – not a choice – given that the Santiago micros don’t actually stop for anything. “So I was walking down the street the other day … (add slapstick comedy here).” The story might have gotten better but I was unable to keep up with the Chilean slang so I started to think of delicious chicken soup. The tale continues for a good ten minutes before the clown begins pacing around in silence.

I am in the front, so he approaches me first. He stomps his left foot to the ground and turns to me with his palm facing the sky: “MY PAY!” he cries with a very determined voice as if I owe him something. I look at him curiously with one eye brow raised … then look away.

He looks down at me and simply says in a very blazé voice with his huge painted smile slowly following his small mouth: “I hate you,” and turns to the rest of the passengers. On his way to the back of the micro I can hear him tell some middle aged ladies in the same blazé tone: “you’re UGLY …ugly, ugly, ugly …” and proceed to insult the rest of the passengers that refuse to pay. As I laughed my way home I kept thinking how entertaining this place would be with people randomly insulting others that refuse to pay … A little bit of honesty in this glossy world of appearances is well appreciated. I’ll remember to pay him twice next time I see him.