Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Deep Sleepers

One thing that I really envy about Mexicans is the way they seem to sleep so deeply. Any time that I get on a bus, regardless of the time of day, within 5 minutes of pulling out of the terminal, half the passengers are in a deep slumber. Of course, the guy next to me is always in a deep sleep, usually nodding his head onto my shoulder. Another thing is the videos that they always play on the buses. In every bus company in Mexico, there exists one of the most important departments called: El Departamento de Peliculas (or the Department of Movies). The job of this person (or persons sometimes) is to choose every movie that will be played on the first and elite class buses that travel between every city in Mexico.

One can imagine the power that these individuals have. What they choose is what millions of Mexicans and Tourists will be watching for hours in a secluded area without the option not to watch. In the theatre, you can walk out; in Blockbuster, you can return it; and on the TV, you can always change the channel. But these busses are different. You are stuck in your seat and you have to watch or at least listen. This is especially true if you cannot fall asleep.

So what do these powerful individuals choose? Nothing but the best: every movie from Jean-Claude Van Damme and Stephen Siegal, along with the following classics: The Brady Bunch Movie, Fame, Clueless, Grease 2, Xanadu, I Shrunk the Kids, Hook, Beetoven, Escape from LA, Escape from NY, Day the Earth Stood Still, Cabin Fever, any Rocky movie, and any karate movie with a dubbing in Spanish (the karate ones are the best cause the timing of the dubbing is always off, so there mouth is moving and the actor is not speaking). This is another one of the factors of my lack of sleep on the buses.

I notice the same phenomenon on the "suburbans," or 15-passenger vans that connect a lot of the towns in Oaxaca with the capital. Those things tear right along, usually whipping around the hairpin turns of Oaxaca's famously curvy roads, yet everyone just snoozes away, hardly disturbed by the violent back-and-forth lurching.

This is best seen in the Sierra Madre, right outside of Oaxaca. In order to arrive to the beaches of Oaxaca, you have to cross this vast mountain range, which is generally covered by a deep field of mist that impairs vision for more than 100 yards. This is especially true in the night, when I deep cloud of mist and fog covers the forests of the Sierra Madre. In order to reach the beaches of Oaxaca, one must scale this mountain in a “suburban.” The drives have a unique ability to whip around corners at speeds of 50 and 60 mph, while intuitively remaining calm.

Along with the suburbans, tourist buses attempt to drive on this skinny highway at night, often piling up three of four buses long. This is not just a normal trip over the mountain. This is a RACE between the divers of the buses and the suburbans. The tourist busses are trying to prohibit any suburban from passing, while the suburbans are trying to arrive in Puerto Angel on time. A drive that should normally take 6 or 7 hours, can be made in 5 hours with these chorfers.

Winding up the mountain, the buses take up two lanes, so the chofers naturally try to pass the buses with the .4 lane that is given to them. This can often cause problems when another car (or worse another chofer driving to Oaxaca from Puerto Angel). So what does it take to become a chofer? I did not have the opportunity to ask, but it is one of the most respected jobs in my opinion.

At the house where I'm living now, we've got some incredibly noisy neighbors next door. They live upstairs with a variety of loudly barking dogs and squawking tropical birds while downstairs they've got a complex of auto and motorcycle shops where un-muffled motors are revving constantly. A few weeks back, some of the gang from the shop, obviously drunk, showed up at about 3 a.m. with some buddies and wanted to show off some hot rod engines they were working on. I swear it sounded like someone had started a jet engine in my room. The next morning, I walked into the kitchen grumpy as could be and said to my roommates: "What the hell was that all about last night!" They just looked at me puzzled. "The revving engines at 3 a.m.! What in the world were they thinking?" I said. They shrugged, "we didn't notice it." Somehow, they slept right through what had been the sound equivalent an atomic blast next door.

I have some friends that live closer to the centro than I do in Queretaro. They live on the second floor of a four store builing. Surrounding the apartment are stores with motion and noise activated alarms. In the night, the large buses or dump trucks pass the stores, activating the alarms with a noise that is unbearably loud. There alarms do not notify anyone, but continue until someone arrives in the morning. If it is not a store alarm, the car alarms always sound off. My friend said, “that the secret it is to plunge the earplugs as far in as they will go, and then you will manage to sleep during the night.” Nevertheless, sometimes they arrive to school late because they did not hear the alarm that they had set.

I guess I'm starting to get the hang of that sound sleeping technique. Hopefully it'll start working on the bus as well, because I've never been able to sleep on those things.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Santa vaca that was long!


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