A telephone pole fell down across a road that’s served by two bus lines. It’s down to one lane and only passable by smaller vehicles so my supervisor sends me down in a big white van, very much like the one your parents probably warned you about as a child, in an effort to help out. My job is to get people to and from the points that are still able to be served by the bus. Basically I’m a mini connection service.
Totally legit plan, right?
Here’s the catch,
I’m unmistakably white and my Spanish is limited to items one finds on a takeout menu. The people in the neighborhood that I am tasked to transport speak very little to no English and it’s my job to coax them into a big white van and persuade them that I can be trusted to take them where they need to go free of charge.
So far today I’ve picked up two people that sort of kind of know enough English to understand that I wasn’t trying to kidnap them. The rest have had to decide between melting in the heat and getting into a strange van with a white lady speaking gibberish, posing in a probably stolen uniform.
I had an Asian lady vehemently shake her and and yell “no!” after a man that was already inside my creeper mobile tried to explain to her in Spanish that it was okay to come with me. In hindsight I see how two different people attempting to encourae her in two different languages, neither of which she spoke, that it was a great idea to get inside a dusty van could possibly have given her pause. At the time though all I could manage was a hurt smile and a shrug and a barely audible, “Okay, I guess I’ll just go now.” As I watched her carry her heavy load of crap down the road in the direction I was going.
In the beginning I tried my hand at a bit of awkward conversation. “Hola! Bueno’s dias…. so uh, what kind of food do you like? Do you ride the bus a lot?” Admittedly I didn’t get very far. So to ease the awkward silence i opted for a bit of heavy brass music with some base and a repetive, but kind of catchy beat. My captives were clearly unimpressed so I went for the silence is golden thing.
I gotta give one guy credit though. He tried super hard to chat me up by mixing small Spanish words and abbreviated English with things we could both understand like “bus no stop”. We nodded at each other a lot and pointed at things. It was the least uncomfortable trip of the day. Credit where credit is due, indeed.
Only two more hours to go. Wish me luck!