• Andy & Felicia

A Tribute to the Buses of Oaxaca

There’s a good chance you’ve ridden a public bus before, but you’ve probably never ridden a public bus quite like the ones in Oaxaca. The city buses in Oaxaca have more in common with the worst wooden roller coaster you’ve never asked to ride than with SEPTA. These things wouldn’t even pass an emissions test, let alone pass for public transportation in the states.

Much like the buses in any city, each has a specified route. You can tell you’re getting the right bus by looking for the destination placards on the front or by listening for the shouts of the hype man.

What’s a hype man? Most likely, his position is driver’s helper or driver’s assistant, something like that. Actually, we’re not even sure they’re paid. Sometimes it seemed like one of the driver’s friends just called him up and asked...

“What are you doing later?”

“I have to work tonight.”

“Cool, I’ll tag along.”

Regardless, a good hype man does a few things. Most importantly, whenever the bus arrives at a stop, he announces the upcoming destinations for everyone within a three block radius to hear. Next...actually that’s all there seems to be to it. But during our week of taking the buses all over the city, we witnessed some hype men that went above and beyond the call of duty. Sometimes, if the driver is feeling parched or a bit hungry, you gotta jump out and grab him a drink or a quick snack. We even witnessed one very eager hype man who would blow the horn if the traffic ahead didn't move within a second of the light changing. Maybe he had aspirations to one day be a driver himself.

Once you step on the bus, you’re greeted by a deep breath of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. There can occasionally be worse smells. You take your seat and admire the interior designers’ work. Each bus has its own little flair, probably an expression of the driver’s personality. Terrible graffiti tags on the backs of each of the disintegrating seats, a must. Colored, tassel curtains usually adorn the inside of the windshield. Possibly, a shoe hanging from somewhere near the front, left behind by some young passenger. There is always a crucifix, front and center.

Now the ride, the rush of adrenaline, that’s what you pay the 8 pesos for. (Or you’re just trying to get from point A to point B.) As the driver cruises around like he’s trying to reenact Crazy Taxi, but with an extra 20,000 pounds, each seemingly randomly placed speed bump reduces your chances of having kids by 5-10%. The locals don’t seemed phased. They clearly have mastered the art of timing each bump, by lifting their asses off the seat at just the right time without even making it noticeable. A few too many bumps, and you understand the pain on Jesus’s face on the crucifix ahead.

The only thing that helps ease that pain is the cocktail of fumes from the exhaust. Actually, maybe none of this is real, and it’s just the ramblings of a brain deprived of oxygen.