Public Transport On This Here Rock

Unless you drive or are driven, you will often have to resort to braving public transport on these here rocks, which can be a bit of an adventure, to say the least. Most rocks operate their public transport in different ways (if they have it available at all), though some rocks are better than others.

On my rock, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have vans aka “mini busses”. They have names, blast loud popular music (though not popular with all passengers, mind you), and a need for speed. Our vans are operated by both a driver and a conductor, whose role is the same as it would be on a train or a regular bus – he takes the money and opens the doors. The vans most popular with the teens are known as the “hot vans”. They generally have the loudest dancehall music blaring, tinted windows, fancy paint jobs, and a conductor who tells you to “small up yuhself” in order to make room for fiddy ah hunnid more passengers, when the van was actually full 3 passengers ago. You pay most conductors after you get in or on your way out. If you have to pay with a bill higher than a $20, I’d suggest you pay well before your stop, so as not to hold up and annoy everyone else in the vehicle.

SVG bus 1_WWLOR

As you can tell, our public transportation system here is different from what you might find in many other countries, though some other islands do have a similar system. The vans that operate here are all privately owned, not government run. So basically, you’re at the mercy of the van owner/driver’s personal schedule – they only work when they want to work. In my area, for example, you better pray to BuddhaAllahJesus that you’re done with whatever you’re up to by 6pm, because most of the van drivers that work this area are done with their day by then. It sure sucks for people with afternoon lessons, or classes, or people who work a late shift. But that’s just how it is. Public holidays? Forget it. We take our public holidays seriously here, you know. NOTHING will be open and the vans will be on a “Sunday” schedule, if they bother to work at all.

There is no such thing as a designated morning/afternoon/night service either. If 10 vans service one area, it never fails that all 10 will be working at the exact same time, speeding and overtaking each other in order to pick up passengers along the way. So this means that the same van you just passed stopped at a bus stop while in your van could pass you at the next stop, while your van is now stopped, picking up more passengers. Yes, I know… believe me, I know. They formed a mini bus association a few years ago, but I think all that’s for is for a bigger impact whenever they ask the government to approve a fare increase.

SVG bus 3_WWLOR

When I ride the busses, I like to sit in the front, in the seat that’s generally reserved for the girlfriend of the van driver (Which I am not, mind you. In my school days – we shall not speak of the years – high school girls sometimes fought over the very desirable van drivers. But… yeah. I never understood that attraction). I just want to get in and out without being squeezed like sandwich bread at the bottom of the bag.

The front row behind the driver is also a good spot since you have a window to get fresh air from because sometimes… armpits. If you happen to get into the van after many other people, you might be put in the conductor’s spot, right at the door. You may be asking, “But where does the conductor sit then?” Well, here’s the fun of sitting in the conductor’s seat: the conductor, now without a seat of his own, will turn to face the passengers, jam his rear into the back of the front seat, hold on to the window and back of the driver’s seat, all while hovering his crotch somewhere near the vicinity of your face, depending on his height, of course. Enjoying that visual in your head, are you? It’s an adventure, I did tell you. You can experience this for yourself, or hear more about it from the medical college students and Peace Corp volunteers who have their own stories to share, I’m sure. You can always tell the virgin passengers getting their mini bus cherry popped… I can’t help but smile an evil inward smile sometimes.

Other passengers can sometimes add to the experience and make for an amusing trip. About a week ago, a slightly inebriated older fellow was explaining to all the passengers about Courts (you know, the place that sells furniture on hire purchase). He explained that you could get a “flat scream” television there, in brands such as Nissan and Toyota. Yeah.

SVG bus 4_WWLOR

Sooooo, a few days ago, I had an appointment in town that I didn’t want to be late for, and I was forced to jump into one of the vans I generally avoid (because I prefer The Fast and Furious to remain a movie, not my real life). Another passenger was seated between the driver and me, but she got out at the first bus stop in town. I wanted to go to the actual terminal, so I stayed put. The driver took this to mean that I wanted to engage in conversation. I really didn’t. Really!!

Unless it’s one of the vans I regularly take and am friendly(ish) with, I try to avoid conversations with the drivers and conductors. I avoid it because I don’t want them to mistake my politeness as flirtation because when I then reject their advances, they might never stop for me again in the future. Men and their egos, you never know. There’s one conductor who regularly tells me that I need a man like him and that he’s waiting on me. This same man was arrested once for a small robbery… you sir, are not my dream man. Once, he didn’t give me back my change (it was 50c) because, apparently… tip. I say once, because after that, I make sure and give him exact change.

So back to this driver who sucked me into a conversation I had no intention of being a part of. He tells me that he’s seen me standing at the bus stop before (duh, cause I don’t get in your van, all you’re going to see is me standing there) and tells me that I stand out, like “the star on a Christmas tree”. The star on a Christmas tree, you know. The pointy yellow thing on top of the pointy green thing… I replied that it must mean my high yellow is showing, and I’m obviously in need of a tan. He told me I seem smart and I should have myself a nice day.

I wonder if he’d have told me to have a nice day had I told him this “star” was heading to have a metal appendage thrust into her lady bits and have scrapings taken?

SVG bus 5_WWLOR

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Vanesta

About Vanesta

Vanesta is a typical beach loving, volcano climbing, hammock swaying, book reading, rum drinking, food cooking island girl. Rumor has it that she sometimes plants things in her backyard… legal things (not Colorado-legal, but everywhere else legal. She says she’s not against the Colorado legal though…). Rasta child, non-meat eater (she does like fish), lover of reggae, praise to the Most High.

She hails from the multi-island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She says you should look it up; it’s lovely, though she might be biased. She’s traveled, though not everywhere on her list, and she’s gone to school on two continents (not condiments, but she is partial to ketchup). She’s all Ashtanga with her chaturanga and sun salutations. She used to stress out, now she does her breathing exercises and tries not to throat punch anyone, because she is a delicate flower and not cut out to be someone’s jail wife. She’s an animal lover, but not fond of the two-legged strays that she seems to attract.

She’s a little island girl (ok, not little. She could drop 15lbs if she didn’t love cake and hate exercise. Plus, she has been around since the 80s began…) who loves her life in her little island world (though she does sometimes dislike the small island politics).

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13 thoughts on “Public Transport On This Here Rock

  1. This is so funny. And I thought the safari buses in the USVI had personality. But compared to St. Vincent they sound bland…Although the male egos and flirtation tactics seem about the same. Great post! Keep ’em coming!

  2. Ah yes! Those mini buses. In JA we call them ‘patty pans’. I think all Caribbean drivers and conductors went to the same school and when training ends they just scatter them across the region. They take courses like “Flirtation 101”, “Turning one lane into three”, “Getting the most out of your small bus: how many can you stuff in.”
    Everything here is 100% TRUE!!! Loved it!

    • I so hate that I forgot to mention the plastic covered seats that make you slide into the person next to you when the driver turns a hard corner. LOL I swear they all went to those classes in order to get their conductor’s license. I have yet to make it to Jamrock, but I will one day, and I’ll definitely try out your mini buses

  3. My rock has no roads, except one that goes from one fishing village to the next. The transportation here in Guanaja, Bay Islands, Honduras is strictly by boat. No boat, you are going no where. There are a few jungle and mountain trails. Guanaja is a beautiful island, for those independent souls that want to “live outside the box”.

  4. So funny Vanesta, and so true! I spent quite a while in Grenada and it was much the same. One of my fave mental pictures is of a very loud and crowded minibus barreling along with the driver hanging out his window talking on his phone while the conductor leaned out the other side on HIS phone. Sheesh! Who’s in charge here?

    A quick note on public transport in the D.R., at least the smaller towns: “motoconchos”. Motorcycles or scooters that you flag down and hop on the back. Since it is often hellishly hot let’s just say the word SWEAT. HIS. YOURS. as it’s nearly impossible not to touch one another….

    • the motorcycle…. OMG.. mingled sweat, sounds divine. lol. I don’t know, my dad had a motorcycle, I want to ride one, but I’ve known way too many people who’ve fallen off them.
      Oh that phone thing is too real, also there’s the stopping in the middle of the road to speak to a motorist going in the opposite direction, and blocking traffic both ways. lovely

  5. HA! What a great piece! You had me laughing out loud! I have a very limited exposure to the taxi buses on this rock and can still totally identify, but I think the experience in STV&G could easily be marketed into the newest game / reality challenge – elimination show! Seriously! Thanks for the great story telling!!

  6. We really need the Argyle International Airport to open soon because our roads can’t handle much more of these aircrafts running up and down on them eating up the asphalt meant for ground transport. lol

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