I'm not a fan of Santiago's Metro in the summer. It's sweltering and -- especially now that school is back in session and the city's workforce has returned to the daily grind -- packed. It's gotten to the point that merely glimpsing the trios of illuminated red diamonds that mark the entrances to Metro stations nudges my pulse up a bit.
The Metro, however, has one redeeming feature: babies. Or guaguas, as they're onomatopoeiatically called in Chile. If you stay on board for a few stops, you're bound to see at least one of them dangling from a baby sling or bouncing on a lap.
Guaguas have a spectacular time on the Metro. They marvel at their own reflections in the windows and stare in awe when another train speeds by outside. They are also unabashed peoplewatchers. Whenever I catch one eyeing me, I wave and make a series of ridiculous faces in the hope of provoking a reaction I rarely get.
Tonight, a Metro baby came to my rescue. I hadn't gotten a seat and was dreading the long, steamy ride home when the guagua in question started playing with my bracelets. She didn't stop fiddling with them for 10 minutes, during which time I completely forgot how peeved I was about having to stand. When a seat finally did open up, I hesitated before taking it, sad at the prospect of leaving my new friend.
I decided then and there that I was going to start riding the Metro like a baby. No, I don't plan to play with people's jewelry or suck on the handrails. I simply will make my best effort not to forget that, as hot and uncomfortable as I may be, speeding through an underground tunnel with dozens of strangers is pretty damn neat.