Chicken Bus Adventures

January 31, 2011 in Belize, North America, Travelogue

Everyone should ride a chicken bus at least once. If for no other reason than to gain an appreciation for what excellent and comfortable service Grey Hound provides, or as a counterweight to the joy of on time Eurorail trains, or for perspective on how much leg room you really do have in an economy class seat on Spirit Airlines.

If nothing else, it’s an exercise in patience and perspective, an opportunity to practice extending grace and it will certainly give you a leg up in your next game of sardines.

Frank, one of the expats in our town, has a joke he likes to tell:

“How many people can you fit on a chicken bus?”………

“One more!”

Today, it was twenty or thirty more, I think.

Imagine, if you will, the school bus you rode twenty, thirty or more years ago. Not just ANY school bus, but the actual ONE you rode. It’s weathered the decades at least as hard as you have, so depreciate your mental picture of the bus accordingly.

Now, cram three people onto each and every seat on the bus; on both sides of the aisle. Add in their luggage, at least one large hand bag per old lady, twelve backpackers with 45 lb packs, four or five salesmen with briefcases and about eight young mothers with infants and diaper bags. Just when you think nothing else will fit, toss in a handful of toddlers with the energy level of monkeys on speed for good measure.

We pulled out of Dangriga with a full bus, then proceeded to pick up more and more and MORE folks at every stop.  The entire aisle was filled shoulder to shoulder.

A family with four kids younger than ours was balancing plates of stewed chicken with beans and rice they’d purchased at the bus stop atop their knees. The children were trying, with limited success to get some of the rice into their mouths with plastic forks as the bus careened down the dirt road a breakneck speed. At the risk of stating the obvious: beans and rice is not bus food.

The driver blew the horn loudly in solidarity with every other bus we passed and I began to suspect that the smell surrounding my seat was not, in fact, a dirty diaper, but the little withered Mayan lady sharing my seat. Lovely.

Did I mention it was a three hour trip?

I dove into a biography of Marie Antoinette to pass the time, trading the sweltering sardine can of humanity that was my real life for cool, crisp linens, gold gilt promenades and orchestral music on the palace lawn. Only occasionally was I jerked back to stifling reality by some kid mashing my toe in the aisle, or the little boy in the seat ahead of me pulling at my hair.

It wasn’t a bad ride. Ezra didn’t puke. The kids got to ride INSIDE the bus. Gabe made friends with a guy from our lago. We didn’t have to get out and push (like we had to in order to get the boat over the sandbar and into Dangriga this morning). The stinky lady got off after only two hours. And, after about thirty miles or so, Tony even got a seat that wasn’t shared with Jack Sprat and his wife. It could certainly have been worse.

Tomorrow we get to do it all over again.  I’m so excited. 🙂