To Arequipa, and beyond

I experimented with the posh bus to Arequipa, partly to cheer myself up after getting stuck in Lima, partly to see what kind of people rode the posh bus.

You could tell it was the posh bus because we had a pretty steward with a microphone who explained where the emergency exits were, and how to make our seats recline. She also explained, several times, that the toilet was for urination only. Urination ONLY. If we had any other needs, we were to let her know and she would arrange a rest stop for those other needs. Because this toilet was for urination ONLY.

I thought it was going to be like Led Zeppelin tour bus. It turns out that the luxury class is more like a low-rent, geriatric cruise ship. A lone Mexican was the only other tourist, and my seat didn’t recline as much as one might hope on an 18-hour trip. There were no fluffy blankets and pillows.

The steward put on Mickey Mouse cartoons, and we watched him bake a birthday cake for Minnie in Spanish. Then she announced meal service, during which time use of the toilet would be forbidden, and we had to return our seats to the upright position. When we finished our meal, our seats would have to remain in the upright position until she signalled, in case the person behind us was still eating. She brought us each a large tupperware container, which held a chicken drumstick, beef with rice, and mystery cake that had traveled more than I have. I was crushed when the beverage turned out to be Inca-Cola, vile yellow fizzy stuff that tastes exactly like Robitussin. I couldn’t cut the Peruvian beef with my spork. Still, dinner anticipation was almost enough sustenance in itself.

After dinner we played bingo. I couldn’t keep up. Every so often she asked a general knowledge question, and the winner was allowed to name three numbers on his or her card. I felt this was unfair: the questions were usually something like ‘On what day and month was there a heroic peasant uprising in the village of Huancallas in the 18th century?’ But the Mexican won, and she brought him up to sing a song before presenting his prize: a free round-trip bus ticket to anywhere in Peru. He sang a mournful mariachi song, and there were a few cries of ‘Viva Mexico!’ Then the brassy woman behind me stood up to yell that it wasn’t fair that a Mexican got the prize. We should play again until a good Peruvian won, instead of sending stuff out of the country yet again.

So we played again. This time a Peruvian won, and there were no riots. I was very disappointed. I had concentrated extra-hard just to piss her off. I brooded about it all the way through Air Bud.

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