Monday, May 14, 2007

Adventures in Cuba - The Bus Driver from Hell

Imagine a man with no fear of death. A man with no natural sense of self-preservation. A man who truly does not care whether he lives or dies.

Now imagine that man is your bus driver.

Dad, Grandpa and I took a side trip while in Cuba once. A bus trip from our resort to the historic city of Santiago de Cuba. The highlight of the trip was The Castillio del Morro.

We clambered into the 1950's Russian-made rusted-out bear trap. It was painted blood red. It sounded like a tank with asthma. Amazingly though it had very comfortable seats and the air conditioning worked. We were so happy to get out of the heat, we didn't care what the bus looked like.

The bus driver however would have frightened Stephen King. He looked deceptively harmless. He was short, brown and dark haired, wearing a breezy white shirt and shorts. We called him Pedro. I don't think that was his name but he didn't seem to mind. He didn't seem to mind anything. Including physics, traffic laws or respect for life.

The first clue that we'd entered the Twilight Zone was his smile. Think Hannibal Lecter meets Barney. He caressed the steering wheel as if it were a knife blade. He hit the accelerator with all his strength and we took off like the Space Shuttle. For the first mile, he didn't look out the windshield. He looked back at us, his victims and grinned.

Pedro drove the bus like a Formula One car. Every turn was taken at maximum speed. Every pedestrian, bicycle or animal was irrelevant. He never used the horn, yet somehow people seemed to know we were coming and got off the road. At one point we had to cross a narrow bridge and Pedro played chicken with the oncoming traffic. Cars drove backwards on the bridge to get out of his way.

After a dozen near-misses, we stopped counting and resigned ourselves to the fact that our driver was insane. It was actually enjoyable after that, kind of like a rollercoaster. We treated it like a thrill ride and threw our hands into the air when he went over a bump or screamed whenever he took a hard turn. Pedro never stopped grinning the entire time.

Finally we got to The Castillio del Morro and poured out of the bus. We were so happy. We went up to the entrance of the Castle, ready for our tour. There was a large sign in front of the door, and we asked the tour guide what it meant.

It said, "Castle closed for lunch."

It's been there for over four hundred years and the moment we show up, it's closed. Brilliant planning. We had to make a decision. We could wait for the Castle to re-open or we could get back on the bus.

We chose to wait. Pedro just grinned.
Next Story: I've Got a Rip in My Pants Again

Previous Story: Pillar of Fire - It Runs in the Family


Ruby said...

When I went to Cuba I didn't get a kamikaze bus driver. However, I did meet Hormone on the beach(my name for him for obvious reasons) . He fell in love with my luminous white body (read fish-belly white beached whale).

My travel companions found the whole encounter extremely amusing. I did not.

P said...

wow, you left a cliffhanger at the end of this story. I wonder what's going to happen next...crazy parakeets come flying out of the buildings?? rabid marsupials??