Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Taxi!

I spent this past week down in San Miguel, where I had the chance to get reacquainted with an old friend: the taxi colectivo.The taxi colectivo is a form of public transportation that works in many ways like a bus. It follows a set route and charges a set fee like a bus, except that it's not a bus, it's a taxi cab, and in most cases a small Nissan or Toyota sedan. It also doesn't have set stops, except at its starting and finishing points, so you can hail one down at any point along its route.The seating capacity for a colectivo is six, including the driver. That means that up to three passengers fill the back seat and two cram into the passenger's seat. It can get quite cozy, that's for sure.

When I lived in Cueranava in June 2003, I rode a colectivo back and forth to school every day and there was always a mad scramble to get those three back seats since nobody likes to share the front seat. Since I wasn't all that agressive about it, I usually ended up squeezed in front, event though I was often the biggest person in the vehicle.Like taxi drivers everywhere, colectivo chauffers are not much for safe driving. So it can be a little terrifying to be crammed into a front seat with another adult, no safety belt for either, as the driver tailgates at 60 m.p.h. or swerves in and out of traffic.But what you lose in safety with the collectivo, you gain in economy.

One day this last week, I had to go to a location on the outskirts of Queretaro. To get a taxi to bring me out there, I paid 60 pesos, or a little more than 5 dollars. But on the way back I grabbed a colectivo and paid 6 pesos, or a little more than 50 cents. Plus I got to know rather well a very plump middle-aged woman who shared the passenger seat with me. We had a very pleasant chat during those moments when I was able to pry my face off of the inside of the windshield glass.

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