El bús de hell

Despite being only 25 cents a ride and having routes that can take you anywhere in the city and several routes to nearby towns and sights, I’m 80% positive the buses in Quito are from hell. (but at least a ride to the Inferno will be cheap!)

First off, I’m pretty sure there was some kind of sale on charter buses because every city bus is essentially a giant charter bus. They aren’t just regular charter buses though, they are super-revved up charter buses (coincidentally the only kind of buses you’ll find in hell). I’m talking like Dale Einhart Jr. buses that can go from 0 to 60 in about 5 seconds and are not under any apparent emission standard. The bus driver’s have zero shame in stepping on the gas pedal like there’s no tomorrow. Seriously, if you’re crossing the street in front of one of these bad boys, you better be a fast runner because there is no slowing down, especially for pedestrians.

The front of these busses are usually decorated with neon lights, designated bus names that are printed on the windows in tattoo-like lettering and are equipped with grills like the devil himself. Inside, curtains, like the ones grandmothers like to hang in their living rooms shade the windows and music- including the likes of Madonna, Los Tigres del Norte, Drake, and Cher- blasts from the speakers.
My first ride is one I will never forget. My bus buddy, Lena, and I were lucky to find seats in the back of the bus, right behind the back door. As we zoomed off, we noticed the door right in front of us didn’t close. No big deal, though, we have a pole separating us from the street. It wasn’t a big deal until we starting travelling down the side of a mountain and could look down from the door and see nothing but huge cliffs beneath us and the only thing separating us from a plunge of probably more than 50 meters is a flimsy little pole. To top it off, we were probably hitting close to 70 mph, with no mercy for turns. I did what I always do in stressful situations like this, I began laughing uncontrollably to the point where I was almost at tears. My bus buddy later reminded me that I was also apparently yelling out, “I’m freaking out!” over and over. Not my bravest moment, but I was indeed a champ at it the next day, I promise.

This morning’s ride was slightly worse as I learned that if the bus is full, you’re way better off just waiting for the next one. Well I wish I knew that this morning as I hopped on the bus, had no room to go in and just held on for dear life at the stairs till the next stop. Mom, if you’re reading this I promise this was just a one time thing!! Luckily, another woman hopped on soon after me and served as my buffer between my body and the ground.

Quito buses are also notorious for simply ignoring established bus stops. With one yell, you can have your bus driver stop in the middle of a busy street or on the flip side, if you’re not paying attention, you can completely miss your stop. One advantage to being a female, however, is that the bus actually stops completely for you. I’ve seen countless men have to sprint to get on the bus and even met a boy at school who broke his leg trying to get on. So I guess, in some sense I do feel lucky that I can actually step on a bus that is at a complete halt for me.

* I just learned today that the bus drivers work in cooperatives but usually the bus driver is also the owner of the bus and profits from having more riders. However, you would think bus drivers would look out for each other in a cooperative but instead they tend to compete with each other to gain the most riders, thus, the high speeds.

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