Just warming it up for you Sir!

The bus had been stationary for an unusually long time.

I switched off my iPod and looked behind me.

It was empty.

I looked at the driver and the bus conductor, who were both staring at me with pity splashed across their faces.

“Er, I go to 68th street? This bus is not correct?” I asked, demonstrating a command of the Spanish language it has taken me five months to perfect.

“No,” replied the conductor, shaking his head in sorrow.

“This bus has finished.”

Luckily, he was a Latino.

That meant that not only did he walk me across the street, he also waited for the 15 minutes it took to hail a taxi on a busy Friday afternoon.

“Everything’s chilled,” he told me, as he gave firm instructions to the driver not to drive me around in a circle.

“It’s not a problem.”

Ah, but it is a problem. At least, it is for me.

Although I have a secret fondness for the buses in Bogotá, I am absolutely terrible at negotiating them.

Once I spent two hours on four different buses, going backwards and forwards until I finally caved and hailed a taxi.

I get excited because you can jump on a bus anywhere – you don’t have to be near a bus stop – so I can’t resist grabbing the first bus that looks like it’s going my way.

Similarly, all of the buses travel at breakneck speed, which means not only do you have 1.25 seconds to decide whether to hail one – you also feel obliged to use it once the driver has screeched to a halt, 10 metres down the street.

Still, after weeks of help from my fellow passengers (if you ask the driver a question, at least six people automatically become involved in your journey) I am finally improving.

But there is still one beautiful Bogotá Bus Phenomenon I really have to share with you.

I was alerted to this odd and, in my experience, entirely unique custom by my friend Christian.

I soon became obsessed with watching my fellow passengers undertake this bizarre little ritual.

Let me explain.

Bogotá buses are extremely crowded. So crowded, in fact, it is not considered unusual to hand your bags to a complete stranger, who is seated, to avoid wacking people on the head with them.

You would think, then, that the moment a passenger vacated their seat, there would be a rush to sit down.

Oh no. Not in Bogotá.

Here it is considered weird to sit in a seat the moment it is vacated.

Instead, you hover six inches above the seat until it has ‘cooled’ and you can no longer feel the ‘heat’ of the previous passenger.

It is ridiculous.

Imagine a crowded bus, flying around corners and squeezing into impossible gaps in the traffic – with passengers hovering above seats as if they are using a foreign toilet.

Next time I see someone hovering I’m going to be sorely tempted to push them aside – or, worse, slide into the seat underneath them…

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5 Comments

  1. Isabel

    Oh this took me back in my childhood when my grandma would made me wait for the seat to cool! I still don’t get it… But when I seat in a warm seat I feel so disgusting…

  2. bananaskinflipflops

    Brilliant! So grandmothers pass this wisdom down the generations! Do they do it in Medellin too? I think it’s so funny. I am always so happy to have a seat, I really don’t mind if the previous person warmed it up for me… 🙂

  3. Archi Enemigo

    The explanation they gave me when I was little was that with heat it was easier for the last passenger´s germs to crawl into your skin… I dont event want to think if it makes sense or not, but have seen it in many cities around the country.

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