Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
What would you do if you were standing in the aisle of a crowded MTS bus, it's a sweltering 90 plus day, the air conditioning is broken, and only half the windows are down because the other half are stuck shut. The armpits of the bone tired, working man standing next to you haven't seen a deodorant stick since the second Reagan administration and the little, round faced Indian boy on your other side is breaking wind like a bean burrito, eating elephant. What can you do? It's not the little boy's fault. He eats what his parents can afford to feed him. And as for the old, working man. After a long day of scrubbing dishes, my armpits are no rose garden either. To top things off, halfway to your destination the bus driver abruptly jerks the wheel and the passenger laden, transport vehicle lurches into a PEMEX gas station. He parks right next to the pump bearing a sign that says "Pague tu motor(Shut your engine)". Leaving the bus's hot engine running, the driver casually strolls over to the gas attendant (who is standing under the Shut your engine sign). The oblivious duo take to chatting amicably while gas station guy nonchalantly pumps in two hundred pesos (about seventeen dollars). Why they never fill the damn tank I'll never know. So now you have gas fumes mixing with the sour armpit and bitter behind of your fellow passengers to create an exotic bouquet of awful stank. I ask you folks. What would you do? And no, buying a car is not an option because we're trying to go green here. Obviously, the gas thing has probably never happened to San Diego passengers riding the award winning MTS transportation system but it happens to many passengers who ride Tijuana's various bus lines. They can truly be exercises in patience. But adversity builds character and if there's one thing a writer should love, it's being around characters. For me, they make writing so much more enjoyable than it already is. Speaking of characters, and character. The following incident was told to me by a passenger on that bus. Not only is the story about one certain, beer drinking character but it also might say something about the character of the average Tijuanense. And maybe you if you can put yourself in that bus seat and empathize. Once again I ask. What would you do? A bus, half full of commuters, is stopped at a red light. A passenger sitting inside the bus is drinking a 'tall can' of Tecate beer. He drains the contents with one last chug and tosses the near empty (it had a bit of backwash as we shall see) can out of the window. Unfortunately for him, and all the others on that bus, he didn't look first. Because he would have seen the motorcycle cop stopped alongside, waiting for that same red light. The beer can pinged off the cop's helmet and rolled toward the curb. Remember the backwash? More of it was now on the cop, than in the can. Don't forget now folks, this is Tijuana. Cops get killed down here on a regular basis (A recent news article in La Frontera gave the latest statistics as seventeen officers killed in the last eighteen months). For all he knew that object was a grenade, or the beginning of an attack. Then he noticed the Tecate beer can on the ground and the backwash on his uniform. That was when some of the passengers, not all, but some, made a big mistake - they laughed. Now on behalf of those few who ruined it for the many let me just say this. If I see some drunken clown toss a beer can out of a bus window and it bounces off some cops noggin, I gotta be honest. I'm going to laugh. But then on behalf of the cop. I know it's a beer can, he doesn't. Now comes where I feel, cultures can differ. The motorcycle cop hadn't seen who launched the beer can. All he could do was storm onto the bus and demand to know who threw it. He did, and no one said a word. Some had seen the dummy tossing the beer can but not a peep was uttered. In my opinion, this action speaks on many levels. No doubt some that this simple minded dishwasher cannot begin to fathom. I do feel that it speaks of police/citizen relations in Tijuana. And maybe it speaks of a code in character. One that might be slightly different from that of there northern neighbors. I say this because if the incident just described had occurred in say downtown San Diego, I'll bet you at least one person would have narc'd the fool off. Or how about this scenario? The guy drinking the beer is an African-American and the incident takes place in one of San Diego's 'less tolerant' enclaves. I think honest citizens of SD will admit they exist. So back to the bus. Since no passenger would reveal the beer can hurler's identity, the motorcycle cop did the following: He ordered the bus driver to follow him to the nearest substation. There, he lined up every single passenger and proceeded to give each one a Breathalyzer test. Still, nobody said a word. No one would drop a dime on the guy. To make matters worse, the guilty coward went to the back of the line. So every innocent person had to breathe into a tube first. I say coward because he could have manned up and put a stop to the inconvenience being caused to many innocent commuters but he never did. His turn came up. He blew dirty. And that was that. For the last time folks. I ask you, to ask yourself. What would you do? The passenger who related this story to me did take solace in one thing though. As the still irate cop grabbed the guy by the shirt and hauled him off to a jail cell, he was heard to say (I paraphrase); "Boy, when I get you inside. I'm going to kick your ass!" COFFEE'S READY, GOTTA GO!!!