Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boom Boom there goes the Mini Bus

A couple of posts back I talked about the experience that is a mini bus, and I figured since this will be a daily occurrence it might be good to give you all a better mental picture of what these dare devil rides consist of. There are three different types of mini buses, which are called Boom Boom, Corkball, and Slingshots. Boom Boom buses are tricked out, no seriously, like what you would expect Snoop Dogg to show up in. The buses have nice rims with incredible photo-realistic art of poster girls on the inside of the buses. Most of the buses have different color lights that flash at night and some even have a small disco ball, so that maybe for just a few minutes you feel like you are in a club. The music they play is well…hysterical. Let’s see, a typical play list sounds some thing like this; 98 degrees, Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Shakira, some sort of inappropriate chutney song talking about rum and girls, Britney Spears, Lean Rimes, some religious church song, an American Idol song and then Bob Marley or some reggae Creolese song. The music is blasted so loud you practically have to scream at the top of your lungs to get the “conductor” to stop at your location. Corkball buses are a bit more modest. They are not really “tricked out,” they have all the seats in pretty good condition, they have regular yellow or white lights to be able to see at night, instead of graffiti art featuring fairies and butterflies (oh yeah I didn’t mention that before) they have quotes such as “Only God I trust, all others must pay cash,” and they play music at a much lower level with a more focused 90’s pop play list. Slingshots, as I am sure you have already figured out, are the least nice buses and most of the time are missing a bench of seats, have no rims, breakdown on the side of the road pretty often and have no music. In other words, they are just a few more oil changes away from the junkyard.

Mini buses ride up and down the main street (really the only street) all day long and to stop them you have to stick out a finger pointing to the ground. Of course by using this method you never know which bus you are going to get. Once you get on, there is a “conductor” which could be a small child, a man, a woman, a grandma, etc. that opens and closes the bus door, collects your money and calls to the driver to stop at your location. But remember me saying that you practically have to yell to get the conductor to stop at your location, well I would say that 2 out of every 5 times they forget your stop and miss it. So they either will back track for you or make you get off a few meters past your stop. The tricky thing about conductors is that they love to rip you off, especially if you are white. We call it paying the “white tax.” Since there is no place that posts the fares for distances, you have to guess and often times have strong words with the conductor or driver about the correct fare, especially if it’s a location you have never been to and don’t really know the fare. Oh and they love to say that the fares change due to gas prices being raised, but once again there really is no way of knowing. This happens to Nate a lot more than it happens to me, I don’t know if it’s a gender thing or the fact that Nate is really white and well, they cant really figure out where I am from, so I have a bit more leeway…or so I think.

The interactions on the buses are probably the most interesting, but before I talk about this, I think its important for me to explain how reckless mini bus drivers are. Drivers honk at any and every person standing on the side of the road whether you have your finger out or not. Since they’re paid based on how many people they can deliver in the least amount of time, they drive as fast as the bus can go, which depends on the bus. Slingshots can’t usually go any faster than 40 mph, but the Boo Boom’s…well I have actually never looked at how fast they are going because well…what’s the point, if things are blurry when you are driving pass it you are probably going too fast. They also love to drive on the incoming traffic lane and pass one another. I feel like they are in a race that just never stops and the fastest mini bus I guess wins…who knows. Now add some cows, dogs, sheep running across the street and just for the hell of it throw in some rain and you have got yourself a real dare devil obstacle course. Exciting…right?

Back to social interactions on the bus; “smalling up” is a necessary survival tactic on mini buses, this means trying to get as small as possible so that instead of fitting 3 people on a bench, like the engineers intended, you can fit 8. “Doubling up” is also tons of fun, especially when 2 or three people sit on each other’s lap. I refuse to do this, I rather not be able to breathe because my face is smashed up against the side of the window than have someone sit on my lap or vice versa. And to top this incredible adrenaline rush ride of a lifetime (sarcasm), people love playing the uncomfortable staring game, which consists of staring at you like you have two heads for the ENTIRE ride! But trust me, its getting easier, well on days that I get a slingshot bus.

Till next time.


  1. Can we do that when I come visit?!?!

  2. Ilana and Nate.
    I just finished reading all the blogs you have posted. It has been like reading a best selling thriller. I was not able to stop until I went thru the last blog. It's been great, no, its fantastic to be able to follow your experiences.
    Keep it up. You have a fan in me.
    I wish you the best and pray to God that these coming 2 years will give you and your community lots of blessings, health and prosperity.

  3. Puts the stick shift Cancun buses to shame!

  4. when I was in UK 4months ago to attend a conference, we had a low floor minibus for our transportation service...they say you can even have the bus custom made...very cool