when i was living in london, going to university and all that, i had to take this course called British Life and Culture in which we learned about how those crazy foreign brits lived. and during one lecture our professor explained that sometimes differences in culture may seem odd or even "stupid," but that they were in fact just "different." profound. really.
one time i was out to eat with a bunch of southerners at a restaurant that served ethnic food, i don't know maybe portuguese? anyway, at this particular place they served all the food together on one large platter, kind of like how they do it at ethiopian restaurants. and this one barbie-doll type girl was terribly offended, finding the whole thing to be quite awful, and she went on and on about how stupid the restaurant was. then, a kind young southern gentleman (not unlike kenneth from 30 rock) told her, "remember what our teacher said, it's not stupid it's just different."
and with that i introduce to you the Guia T ... oh how different it is. it makes this look clear and logical.
here in buenos aires, there is a subway system called the Subte which is owned and operated by a company called metrovias. the subte works well enough, but most of the trains go to the city center, leaving very few trains to connect other parts of the city together. but, there are millions of buses running all sorts of routes through the city. everywhere you look there are buses. so, being a new yorker and all, i figure that it can't be that hard to learn this bus system. surely, all i need is a map. right? wrong!
it turns out that every bus route is owned and operated by a separate company, and these companies have not gotten their act together to make one cohesive map. instead they have what is called the Guia T. the Guia T is a 192 page book which breaks the entire city up into sections and lists which buses run in each section. fine. i prefer a map, but whatevs. i should be able to handle this.
here's how it works:
2. when you find your grid, look at the adjacent page to see a list of buses that serve that grid. check!
but wait! how do i know where these buses stop? each grid is typically 5 streets by 5 streets. how will i know which street each bus is on? answer: you don't! you just have to walk around an area of about 25 square blocks hoping to find the right bus going in the right direction.
okay, so i don't know where each bus leaves from ... how do i find out where the bus is going to? answer: you can't!
3. find the street you are traveling to using the index, and then find its corresponding grid one of the maps.
4. once you have found it, you look at the adjacent page and see what buses service that area.
are any of the buses that service your destination the same as the ones that service your area of departure? i hope so, because if not you're kinda fucked!
5. flip through the maps in a sort of bus matching game and hope that you can find a bus not too far from your departure point that is also listed on a grid sort of near where you are going.
however, at no time or place is there a list of bus stops or picture of the bus route. not even at the bus stops! and don't forget that you'll need to plan for extra time to aimlessly walk around a 5x5 block grid hoping to find a bus stop.
the other day i miraculously figured out that the 34 has a stop about 7 minutes from my house and goes directly to the park. cool. i'm on it. after asking a lot of people in the street for help, i was able to finally find the bus stop and board a bus. crazy!
when i tried to get home, i walked down the street where the 34 was running back towards my house, but there were no bus stops. buses were flying past me not stopping and there were no bus stop signs in sight. was i on an express route? then after many many blocks of walking, i finally found a 34 stop. and lo and behold after only a few minutes a 34 came driving down the street. and then it drove right past me. hmmm, was i supposed to signal to the bus? was i not standing on the corner expectantly enough? then a few minutes later another 34 came and i waved my hands like a maniac. and again the bus zoomed right past me. defeated, i walked a couple miles back to my house.
later i asked an argentinian about this and she explained that often the bus stop signs are no longer at the stops and you just have to know where the bus stops are. "how would anyone know where the stop is?" i asked her. "oh," she said, "just ask around."
she went on to explain that the buses are supposed to stop if you wave at them, but if they are running behind schedule then they can choose not to pick you up. "is there a schedule?" i asked, hoping that maybe dream against dream, that there was a posted schedule and maybe even a nice map of routes. "oh no," she said, "there's no official schedule. it's just if the driver feels they're running late." ah, of course. bus drivers have their own personal goals of how quickly they want to drive the bus route. much like runners in training for a marathon. no need for an official schedule.
and that, dear blog readers, is why i have been walking everywhere.