Wednesday, April 26, 2006

#259 - Madam, I Hope That Pig Paid Full Passage! (Updated)

Even for Airbus, this would have been a stretch.

The report had come out yesterday (that is to say, I heard about it yesterday, which probably means it's been out for a few days now), and was probably fueled in part by rising oil prices driving the demand for more mass transportation. I bought into it at first. I was even ready to help Airbus with their new ad campaign:
Airbus: Your Chicken Bus in the Sky

I don't see the "standing room only" concept ever really taking off with airlines; pun intended. For one thing, most folks would be awfully tired after taxiing on the runway for three hours before their 45 minute flight. For another, I can imagine the slight G-loads on takeoff being a bit much for even the average traveller.

As a Guatemalan chicken bus veteran, I can tell you that airlines got nuthin' on your average Guatemalan bus driver. (Note to liberal readers of this blog: these comments do NOT equal racism. These are recollections of one who was there - albeit 28 years ago - risking his life to spread the Gospel.)

Bus drivers in Guatemala typically drove in two styles: overcrowded and slow enough to be passed by Congress [rim shot], or overcrowded and fast enough to qualify at Daytona. The Daytona variety of driver was able to pull G-loads you only get in your average F-18 with afterburners. In fact, the Daytona drivers were generally responsible for sending the Congressional drivers to the bottom of various barrancos in our area.

So, even if Airbus were to offer standing room passage on their planes, I remain unimpressed. Now, when they begin strapping passengers on top of the plane with a basket of chickens fresh from the market, then I'll be impressed.


Just in case you ever make it to Guatemala and you wish to experience, first hand, the thrills of the local bus routes, here's the list:

Congressional Drivers:
Rutas Momostecas - "Tacos" we called 'em. These buses were the slooooowest things moving in the country. They were regularly passed by diseased cattle, or Mayan women carrying 50 pounds of groceries on top of their heads. Passengers frequently got out and pushed to help the bus get there faster. This is the bus I rode on top of whenever there were too many chickens inside the bus.

Daytona Drivers:
Ruta Morelliana - Morelliana drivers were evaluated based on relative sanity. The more insane the driver, the longer the route he was given to drive. The idea was to get the passengers to Guatemala City in the shortest amount of time possible, preferably an hour before they departed from the other side of the country. Dirt roads were seen as acceleration ramps. The only times I've ever seen Mormon missionaries cross themselves were when they boarded a Morelliana during Semana Santa (Holy Week, preceding Easter Sunday), when the insane drivers also drink local moonshine by the gallon. We used to take this bus to a place called Cuatro Caminos ("Four Roads") in order to catch a slower bus into Quetzaltenango. If the driver thought he was behind schedule, he'd slow to sub-warp speed and eject us. Through a window, if necessary.

I have very fond memories of Guatemalan mass transit.

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