Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bus Experience (SLU Edition)

             Remember all I said about riding a van in SVG?  Well if not, I know it was a while ago, let me refresh your memory for you.  It is not uncommon to be riding in a 14 passenger van with 18+ passengers, a driver and a conductor.  Just the other night I was riding a van with 21 passengers, a driver, and the conductor was riding on the back bumper holding on. The conductor is the man who collects your passage fare, helps you on and off with large parcels, helps small children climb on and off, packs the van in the most efficient way possible so as to fit the maximum number of passengers, and what ever other assistance you may need while riding a van. I find that the conductor helps things run smoothly and fast.  There’s not much time between when a person gets off and the van pulls away.  The van is almost always playing dancehall, reggae, soca, or pop music and loudly.  The van drivers and conductors are almost always young men.  It is rare to ride in a van that does not play music, or with an old driver. Furthermore, most vans have catchy names in cool graphics painted on the front/side of the van.  Some vans have the destination of the van labeled in small print on the windshield.  But mostly, you know which van goes where by its graphics/name. And if you don’t know which van is going where, no worries because the conductor will most likely yell the destination as the van is passing by, or if
            Now lets compare that with the vans in SLU.  They only hold 14 passengers; 3 people to a row, and two in the front.  It was so roomy and spacious.  I didn’t have to touch (sit on top of or be sat on) the person next to me. I didn’t have to feel their sweat.  It seemed like most passengers kept the windows closed too.  I guess when you aren’t packed in it doesn’t get as hot and steamy. It was also unbearably quiet in the vans.  No music at all, no one talking.  You could hear a pin drop. It was really quite uncomfortable.  However, when any one got on the bus they said the appropriate greeting (good morning, afternoon, evening).   Everyone said hello.
            In SLU there is no conductor. This causes stops to take a while.  For some trips, mostly when traveling out of Town, the van drivers collect passage fares before leaving the bus terminal. However, other times it took a while for the driver to make the appropriate change. Groceries and other parcels are stored in the “trunk” underneath the seat benches.  When the person calls their bus stop (by saying “driver, stopping”), the driver must get out of the bus and open the trunk to collect the packages for the passengers. In addition to this, its also kind of difficult to work the van sliding doors.  Especially on hills, the doors can be heavy and tend to slide back, its also difficult when you are trying to manage large luggage or other bags. People rarely “make a squeeze” to fit more than the allotted 14 people on a van.
            One of the best parts about SLU van rides was that the roads are straight, flat, and smooth.  There are significantly less hills, turns, curves, corners, and markedly less potholes.
            Even though the bus rides in SLU were spacious, and fairly comfortable, I still prefer being mashed up with loud music and the organized chaos that is the Vincy Van experience.

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