Commuting by bus in Mexico

Commuting by bus in Mexico

Choosing the perfect seat.

Choosing the best seat is important for a 40-minute commute in Toluca, this mid-sized city in Mexico where I live. The buses are different from in the United States: they're a third shorter, with the boxy dimensions of a large passenger van. Most are beat up inside and out.

Old advertisements peeled off the outer walls of the vehicle left streaks and scratches. Fenders are beaten to a pockmarked pulp, or are nonexistent. The seats inside are worn down to the underlying fabric, torn or completely open, exposing dark grey foam. They might be disconnected from the metal bracings. This is your worst seat.

In fairness, there are a lot of new buses. They are sparkling clean and more spacious. They have the government slogan on the walls. When a different political party takes charge, they repaint the buses and garbage trucks and put up promotional signs. Right now the slogans are variations on “Piensa en Grande:” Think Big.

Mexican roads are full of speed bumps. Often an impatient bus driver will get his front tires over it gently, only to speed up and hit the back tires hard. So if you are in the back half of the bus you will bounce up in the air like if you did back in elementary school while singing that awful song. How did it go again?

But don’t sit in the front seats. An old woman or pregnant lady is bound to get on, and as a gentlemen (or woman) you are bound to offer her the seat.

So you are best off somewhere in the middle. But which side? The sun can blaze pretty hard through the windows on a smoggy street.

I take the same route every day, but at different times. Most days I can’t remember and end up surprised. Sometimes it is nice to get that sun. Usually the shade is nicer. But nothing beats getting off that bus and getting your land legs back.