Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'll take the bus this time

I think that's how the Jonathan Richman song goes, about the delights of bus travel. But try convincing my bourgeois son Max that a bus is a better way to go than a taxi. He likes the directness of taxis, but it's the things off your route that are always the most promising.

I was on the Oaxaca city bus, one of my favorites because it had been painted a lurid red through the interior which went great with the purple tinted windows. A guy got on and gave the driver a look. I'd seen that look before. It's this quick look of asking permission, to which the drivers typically nod.

When he got on, I could see he had a large display shelf slung around his neck. He was selling pens. But not any pens--Papermates. He pronounced each syllable Spanish phonetically, like pah-pare-mah-tay. He was working those Papermates, slashing ink on a little pad of paper and showing the results. And then, yes, he pushed the Papermate and it became a flashlight, not with any power to illuminate anything per se, but with a glowing tip.

The passengers seemed noncommittal. But I am always fooled by Mexicans' stony stares. There is never a discussion, not even a rummaging for change. They just suddenly wave their 10 peso coins in the air and grab at the item for sale. Which they did. They were going nuts for the Papermates! And he hadn't even gotten to the free gift. Highlighter pens. The whole bundle was going for under a buck, including the ineffective flashlight pen.

The women across from me were trying out their new pens. They called the vendor over. There was a problem, you see, that the flashlight wasn't shining brightly. He switched theirs and then, they couldn't help themselves, they bought another set.

I was happy to see my stop coming because the excitement had me tempted to score some Papermates and, really, I just did not need them.

As I got off the bus, two clowns got on. Who knows what they were selling.