Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What a Difference a Class Makes

Well, my itinerary has taken me from Ixtapan de la Sal through Cuernavaca and now I'm in Puebla. Monday I spent entirely on the road, from bus to bus. On the first leg of my journey, it was a second class bus from Ixtapan to Cuernavaca. I thought I was being smart to check the bus departure times from Ixtapan with the local tourist office. I did it twice just to be sure. Yep, both times they told me, "It runs every 2 hours beginning at 8 a.m.....8, 10, 12, etc." Now, I didn't ask twice just out of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It wasn't so much my need to have all the details down perfectly and in advance, so much as knowing how Mexicans work. If you ask a question, they will always give you an answer. Not necessarily the CORRECT answer, just an answer. My thought is that this is a cultural quirk....they just want to be polite and helpful (even though you get the wrong answer about 50% of the time). So, I planned to take the 10 a.m. bus. Got up, went out for breakfast, packed, checked out, got a cab to the bus station, and arrived around 9:30 in time for the 10 a.m. bus. BUT, there was no 10 a.m. bus. It was an 11 a.m. bus. "Tiempo Mexicano"..they call it Mexican time. So I just took it as a chance to catch up on some reading.

It was supposed to be a 2.5 hour trip and turned out to be a 3 hour trip. Lots of 2-lane twisty and turny mountain roads. Looking out of the bus window at sights of Mexico whizzing by (OK, not whizzing. Maybe crawling by.): an observation on Mexican home security. For the common folks it amounts to metal bars on every window. Great for stopping robbery. Not so great if you're caught in a fire. Another homemade home security measure--soda pop bottles. Huh? Yes, they break them into shards and implant them along the roof line or exterior wall. Not even the most motivated crook wants to crawl over that. Sometimes, if their building abuts their neighbors, they will place a half-moon looking piece of metal with spikes radiating out at 90 degrees. Again, to prevent bad guys from climbing over. And, the deluxe edition of home security: roof dogs. To use it seems hopelessly cruel, but that's what they do. Keep dogs up on the roof. When someone approaches, the bark their heads off.
Good fences make good neighbors.

A sign in the town square/ park back in Ixtapan de la Sal: "Una flor es un mundo de felicidad" (a flower is a world of happiness). Mexicans have this sweet sentimental streak.

When we finally got to Cuernavaca (which is a dump, by the way...crumbling buildings and lots of graffiti), I had to transfer to another bus line on to Puebla. Cuernavaca is one of the cities where there are separate bus terminals, no one big (convenient) one. So I had to take a taxi across town to make my connection. And the sharks they call taxi driers knew that. $18 for the trip they said. "Are you nuts?," I said. I walked away. We agreed on $15....still about double what it should be. Those are U.S. prices. But we got clear across town in time for me to make the 3 p.m. departure of the "Oro" bus (Golden). Wow! It was "super deluxe" class. That means leather seats. Only 24 passengers. Lunch provided. 2 bathrooms, an "in-flight" movie, and no stops to pick up folks along the way. The bus was full, mostly young, rich Mexicans. And me. Lesson learned: first class is nicer than steerage.