Written by: Vanesta
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.
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.
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.
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?