When I was in college, in the prehistoric days, I was a veteran bus traveler. I am not talking about the city buses but the kind you would take from city “A” to city “B” three states apart.
You know the kind of which I speak. I am talking about the long-distance ones that smelled not unlike you were stepping into an ashtray on wheels. There was always the peculiar smell of cigarettes, beer, and that nursing home smell that you encountered when you went to visit your 900-year-old aunt.
The seats in those nastiness-on-wheels buses were positively nightmarish. I still dream about them. I think I suffer from (among many things) a post-traumatic bus-seat stress disorder. Those seats were little butt seats. I mean you had to have the butt of a 10-year-old dwarf child to sit comfortably in them! And, if you were lucky, there would be some duct tape covering the hole where someone smuggled drugs or where there was a spring ready to impale one of your butt cheeks.
The floors! My God, the floors! There was always something sticky covering the floors and they were a necrotic-tissue color–black. I am positive they contributed to the assortment of smells that wafted into your nostrils on entering the bus.
The bathrooms in those buses were virtually impossible to use. If you managed to drop your britches to use the toilet and sit down, you were assured of a skull fracture from being propelled off the thing as though someone suddenly jerked the toilet up and forward when the bus driver (probably drunk) accelerated.
Once, I had to take a bus from Clarksville, Arkansas, to York, Pennsylvania, for Christmas break. The trip, boring and tiring as it was, wasn’t that bad and we were making good time. I was going to have to spend three days, count them, three days traveling in a bus.
Well, somewhere in Tennessee, I think, the bus driver decided to stop somewhere in the middle of the night for a bite to eat. It was, as I said, in the middle of the night and while we all slept he took a little extra time to do God only knows what.
His little rest stop put us late getting into somewhere (I forget) which caused me to miss my connection. In addition, it was snowing, delaying the next bus I could have taken.
I had to spend two days in a bus station, with no hotel money, waiting for the worst snowstorm in the history of mankind to clear up so the appropriate bus could get there.
I called my parents and made them swear they would fly me back to Arkansas after Christmas should I survive this ordeal.
That was the last time I ever rode a bus in America.
Now come with me to Mexico: My wife and I went to Puerto Vallarta for Christmas, 2004. We took the ENT bus line. This thing was, and I swear to you, like the first-class section of the most expensive airline only magnified to the power of 1000.
As you got on, they served a lunch and drink. There was a galley for your tea or coffee pleasure. There were two bathrooms in that bus. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? The seats were big-butt seats, like on a first-class airline, and were actually comfortable to sleep in. There were private headphones for music or for watching the movie. You heard rightthe bus had video screens for a movie!
Get this: They insolated the bus walls because you could hear nothing from outside the bus.
Can you begin to fathom how a so-called third world country can offer this most astounding bus traveling experience while the United Statesdeveloped country?still offers (so I am told) basically the same torture that I suffered in the 70’s?
Doug Bower is a freelance writer and book author. His most recent writing credits include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Transitions Abroad. He lives with his wife in Guanajuato, Mexico.
His new book Mexican Living: Blogging it from a Third World Country can be seen at http://www.lulu.com/content/126241