My mom expressed concern about one of the haikus from my latest post, and I thought I should take this opportunity to elaborate on it. Here is the haiku in question:
As the bus pulled in,
I boxed an abuela out.
I’m not proud of it.
I suppose pushing grandmothers out of the way is frowned upon in the States. Understandably so. In the States, I gave up my bus seats to the elderly, to the disabled, to mothers with babies, and to pregnant women. I’m a healthy 24-year-old. Why should I have a seat while a 90-year-old struggles to stand?
While that stands true as a matter of good bus etiquette in the States, and sometimes holds true in Nicaragua, I will try to paint a picture of how things typically go when boarding a bus back to my site. Take last Monday, for instance:
It’s always difficult getting a seat on a bus. The concept of forming a line just doesn’t exist. And not getting a seat on the bus means you’ll be packed into the hot metal school bus like a sardine, standing, for 1.5 hrs in 95-degree weather with 60 of your closest (proximity-wise) strangers. There are little kids that hang out in the terminal and people pay them to save them seats. Others use their own kids to slip in through the cracks, save some seats, and then the parents pass their bags through the windows to save seats for the entire family. It’s competitive. So last Monday on my way back from Matagalpa, it was hot out, we had been waiting in the sun for 30 minutes, and I had just found out that my Uncle Nathan passed away. I was determined to get a seat.
I needed a win.
Nishant guarded the bags, and I was put on guard duty. Finally, I spotted the bus, and everyone started sprinting towards it. I sprinted as well. I held on to the handles by the door of the bus, in the front of a crowd of people that were fighting for positioning. The bus was still backing into its space. This is not unusual. What was different about this time was that everyone was cracking up, because I, the white girl, was boxing out all of the little boys that were trying to get on the bus first. They had never seen anything like it. Some adults in the back were even rooting for me, saying things like, “let the muchacha in first!” When the doors opened, I used my knees to boost myself up, and literally sprinted down the aisle until I came to the first available seat. I sat, victorious, and put my backpack down to save Nishant’s seat.
When no one’s following your rules of etiquette, your rules of etiquette don’t apply. I, and several other PCVs that I have spoken with, lament the fact that we are losing this chivalrous part of ourselves. I have seen a shrunken, 90-year-old abuela on the bus, and have not gotten up for her. Is it right? I don’t know. But that’s how it is.
However, when I visit the States at the end of this month, I do solemnly swear to refrain from pushing children and grandparents out of my way when boarding public transportation. But if you see that glimmer of desperation in my eye as I move towards the door, please, lightly tap me on the shoulder and remind me: “back of the line, please,” and I will very willingly oblige.