Walter Mencken 9 a.m., Oct. 1
- Community Blog
- TJ from PB
Stuffing Monkey in Tijuana
"Two out of seven is never enough," I muttered to myself. I am standing at the bus stop. Just to one side of the Pueblo Amigo Hotel in Tijuana. It's just a stones throw away from the San Ysidro port of entry and where I find myself every Monday morning. "Two out of seven is never enough," I say again. I am referring to the number of days(2) that I get to spend each week in my Palacial Wooden Shack in the hills east of Tijuana. My daily work commute has become so long, as border security is layered upon futile layer, that the seven to eight hour commute has become a job unto itself (albeit one without pay). So I now spend five days a week in San Diego before heading home to decompress in the soothing waves of absolute silence that wash over the mist shrouded hills outside my humble abode...
... With cup and pipe in hand I awake with my garden. Nodding to the bunches of Muscat grapes that dangle from my front porch while smiling as the first hummingbirds of the morning zip in for breakfast. At my PWS in Tijuana I wash off the rat race-grime of SD and cloak myself in the uncaring dust that swirls around my sanctuary. These same winds that kick up dust make the Cosmos and California Poppy gently sway to a song only they can hear. "Come on bus. Two out of seven is never enough," I squirmed. The bus that I was waiting to catch was a blue and white (Tijuanenses refer to the various bus companies that work the city by their colors). Its route takes it along the US-Mexico border, past the newly remodeled Tijuana airport, thru the midst of the Otay industrial area(ie:maquiladoras) and finally out onto Highway 2000. Which will take me to the part of Tijuana that a taxi driver once called El Fin del Mundo (The End of the World) but which I call home. After only a few minutes that seemed like an eternity I saw a blue and white come rolling up towards me. Lifting my hand I hailed him ( I say him because a female bus driver in Tijuana is about as rare as an honest politician is in San Diego). Flagging down the bus was necessary because the blue and whites have about four or five routes that service this particular bus stop. Think of it like the bus stop in front of the MTS Transit store on Broadway in downtown SD. Only these buses don't have route numbers. Just a selection of major stops along their route scrawled in white marker on the vehicles window glass. It's usually in the right hand corner of the driver, which would also partially block his view of potential riders. For this reason the bus rider in TJ has to be particularly alert when waiting at a stop. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the bus drivers. It is not uncommon for a bus rider to board a Tijuana bus and find the bus driver A) Talking on his cell phone, B) Shuffling thru his stack of Norteno, Banda, Reggaeton bootleg cds, C) Trying to twist the volume knob on his stereo past 10, D) Engaging in deep conversation(with a passenger they just met) about absolutely nothing. It was the letter A that befell me. I watched in stunned disbelief as the driver rolled past me. My arms were raised high above my head but it was to no avail. So deeply engrossed was the driver in conversation. At this point in the story I should probably use the word upset because this is the San Diego Reader but folks I gotta call it like I felt it. "I was so pissed off I was shittin nails!" I was tired and wanted to go home! I was hungry and even more importantly had not had a single drop of coffee all morning. No caffeine to fuel my rage. I would have to pull this one out from deep inside that dark part in my guts. On the other side of the Pueblo Amigo Hotel is a Yellow Taxi station. I usually don't utilize this companies services but this was an emergency. "Taxi, follow that bus!" I hollered as I flung my satchel and myself into the back seat. He caught up to the bus within a couple of blocks and stopped in front of the blue and white. I paid him double the fare and made a beeline for that driver, who was going to get himself a good piece of my mind by golly. I boarded the bus and gave him both barrels of my choicest verbal abuse. So incensed was I that I went reverse Ricky Ricardo and started hollering in English. No matter, I'm sure he got my point. So obvious was my anger that I had no doubt he knew exactly what I thought of his lack of professionalism. I verbally laid into that guy until I was out of breath then waited for his reply. "Y Que (And What)?" he calmly replied. My words had not rattled him at all. My eyes bugged out like a meth smoking gecko. In the barrios of East Los Angeles where I grew up, 'Y Que' was the challenge issued before you threw down (fought). It meant 'And what are you going to do about it?' What could I do? I wanted to get home. I paid the fare and glumly went to the back of the bus. I could feel the driver's smirk, real or imagined, slamming into the back of my skull like the nail studded baseball bat that I wielded in my misspent youth. How sad that this broken down, fifty one year old fart, just couldn't let it go (pun intended, or at least sought). As we traveled thru the streets of northeastern Tijuana I seethed and roiled inside. My fury had crossed the Rubicon. I had to do something. That driver had to feel what I was feeling. But how? My first thought was to wait until we were on a lonely stretch of highway and I was still the only passenger on the bus. I'd call him out, bull rush him and we'd get it on. But then I wondered who would drive the bus while we were fighting and so I canceled Plan A. My next idea, which I, super genius that I am, came to call Plan B. Was to light the bus on fire and jump out the emergency exit in the back as the bus filled with smoke. Torching the bus would be easy since the torn, bulging cushions could easily be doused with cologne and voila! But the more I thought about this idea the less appealing it sounded. The point became mute when a group of factory workers got on. Plan B was now out of the question and my bus stop was fast approaching. "Let it go - I can't... Let it go - I can't... Let it go - I can't..." I hate it when those two voices get to arguing inside my head. Calamity more often than not ensues. With a dry mouth and pounding heart I rang the buzzer and started walking towards the driver's exit up front. Instead of the rear exit which was much closer to where I'd been sitting. Did I have a Plan C? I didn't think so. But I must because I'm moving towards the guy. Tijuana bus and taxi drivers love to gaudily festoon their vehicles. Kind of like my fellow Chicanos back in East LA. do with their low riders. This particular driver had an affinity for the color red and Velcro monkeys. You know, the kind you Velcro their hands and feet together to hang them up. This guy had four or five hanging all around. Right above him was the biggest, nicest one of all. And that's the one I snatched before hopping off the bus and onto the dirt alongside the Highway 2000. I calmly turned to the surprised driver and grinned. "Give me my monkey!" shouted the now irate driver. ""Come and get it," I answered sans grin. My message was obvious. "Give me my monkey," he screamed even louder. "Come and get it..." "Give me..." The two of us volleyed these lines back and forth before I grew bored. We were starting to sound too much like Homer and Bart going at it. So I decided to ratchet up the situation. By now I was out of control and had no idea what was happening from moment to moment. I stepped back away from the bus so that all the passengers could see me and the Velcro monkey. A couple of fellows were grinning at my antics and this just spurred me on. I began stuffing the monkey from behind. Now I'm using the word stuffing but what I was really doing rhymes more with trucking. The bus driver's eyes widened in horror. "Give me my monkey!" he shrieked. "Come and get it!" I shouted with glee as the monkey's head, arms and upper torso flailed about. My denim jeans were bumping furry monkey butt like a rodeo champ on a bucking bronco as I made my statement. "Give me my monkey," he said in a faltering voice. His shoulders had deflated with the realization that he might not get his Velcro monkey back. "Come and get it." He closed the door and started driving off. I saw him glaring at me in his rearview mirror. I could only imagine the ribbing he was getting from the grinning passengers. "Orale chofer, ese vato cojio tu chango! aha, ha ha...!" I tossed the Velcro monkey onto the ground and flipped the driver my middle finger. The thought of keeping the monkey never occurred to me because that would have been wrong. As I began my two kilometer trek uphill to my PWS I laughed out loud and said to myself, 'Two out of seven is never enough!' "COFFEE'S READY, GOTTA GO...!!!"