Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

...OK, I don't really mean that. I love rain, clouds, fog and dreary weather in general. What I don't love is what said weather does to my feet (wet) and commute (disastrous).

Wait...Don't stop reading. This isn't just a Transantiago rant. OK, it kind of is, but it's an exciting one, I promise. Think shattering glass and indecent bodily contact.

That comes in just a minute. First comes the part where I leave my (broken) umbrella outside overnight to dry and one of the building's posse of psychotic cats pees on it. I rinsed it off in the rain yesterday morning, but the smell of cat urine is resilient, to say the least.

At about 7 A.M., I set out for my English class with my raincoat and my mangled, stinking umbrella. The Metro ride was uneventful; the real fun started later, when it came time for me to switch to the bus.

The bus stop outside of Metro Dorsal, as one would expect on a rainy day, was packed with commuters just as soggy as I was. The buses, as one would fear on a rainy day, were absent. As the crowd on the platform expanded like cancer under a microscope and the horizon remained exasperatingly empty of buses, I began to worry. I was already running late, and there was no way all of us were going to fit into one vehicle.

When the vehicle in question finally did arrive, it wasn't the enormous articulated bus I'd been expecting. Instead, a small bus pulled up as we waiting passengers furrowed our brows, struggling to fathom how the laws of physics were going to permit this to happen.

They obviously weren't, so I resigned myself to not even trying. Arriving a few minutes late to my English class was far preferable to losing a limb in the struggle.

Some other passengers, however, did not arrive at the same conclusion. They packed themselves onto the bus and, when there was no more room inside, leaned out the doors while clinging to handrails. They were leaning so far out, in fact, that I knew there was no possible way the doors were going to close.

The attendants who had been charging fares at the bus stop were not as fatalistic. Determined to send as many people as possible on their way, they made a valiant effort to shut the doors behind the passengers--even those that were hanging two feet off the bus. They were so intent on accomplishing their mission that they pushed one of the doors until all of its glass shattered onto the street.

Nobody seemed too upset by this. The attendants simply urged the passengers to distribute themselves more evenly throughout the bus--as if there were room for them to move.

The wounded bus went on its merry way, and some time passed before another one came. This time, I was already late for class and determined to get on. Luckily, I didn't have to work too hard to do so. Getting on a bus is pretty easy if you've been swept up by a giant tidal wave of humanity. The tough part comes when you realize it's becoming difficult to breathe and can summon no cry for help more articulate than "ow, ow, OW!"

I wasn't exaggerating when I said it was difficult to breathe. Saying we were like sardines in a can would be an understatement--at least canned sardines have a little water to float around in. We, on the other hand, could barely inflate our lungs. I was smashed behind one man and up against another; every time the bus lurched, I came dangerously close to kissing the latter's neck. The fact that my umbrella made everything smell like cat pee took all the romance out of the situation.

By the time the bus coughed up its final passengers at Ciudad Empresarial, I was 20 minutes late for my class. An hour later, I boarded another bus to leave.

The bus was empty, but its windows were still fogged with the labored perspiration of passengers past. After settling into my seat, I drew a smiley face on the glass, hoping it would serve as some consolation to the next batch of dripping urban travelers.

1 comment:

noel said...

Maybe cat-scented umbrellas are the new pepper spray??