16 May 2007

When Recliners Meet Celine Dion In Spanish – On A Bus

Our bus was departing at 8:15pm. I should have known at 8:02pm when we were still standing in the office that time was going to be tight. Combine our late departure with a 65-year-old cab driver who didn’t quite understand the severity of our situation and you’ve got one stressed out host in the form of Marina, the Avancemos representative escorting me to the North. Since she was so worried I didn’t have to be, so I just laughed about the whole thing. We get to the bus station at 8:14pm and Marina darts into the building. I’m a close second with Gonzalo, the Argentine venture rep bringing up the rear. Marina is literally “paving the way” for us, zigzagging through crowds of adults, children and luggage. The big digital clock now says 8:15pm and Marina is talking to herself in Spanish. I’m guessing she’s using angry words. I’m still laughing. I mean, how funny would it be to miss a 15-hour bus that wouldn’t leave again tomorrow after missing an 11-hour flight that didn’t leave again until a day later? Pretty funny!

We arrive at our “gate” (this bus station is reminiscent of an airport) and Marina flings the tickets in the man’s face. He takes them calmly, pointing to the luggage compartment. Marina smiles at me, relieved. I turn to smile at Gonzalo only to find that he is nowhere to be found. Gonzalo is gone. He was there we exited the cab and still behind me when we got into the building. Now the only thing behind me is an older, heavyset woman wearing lots and lots of gold jewelry. Marina tells me to find him. Um, ok?

I walk back to the central corridor and keep my eyes peeled, scared to leave the bus for fear that I’ll be gone, he’ll show up and I’ll have no idea how to get back to the bus. This really isn’t an effective search method. There are literally thousands of people milling around. So, for lack of a better idea I start yelling his name. “Gonzalo! Gonzalo!” People start staring. This isn’t like China, where no one notices anything you do. Curious heads turn and watch. It is now 8:19pm but it feels like an eternity has passed. I’m still cracking up inside about missing the bus. Suddenly, like in a movie, the crowds part and Gonzalo appears, shaking his head. “I went to far,” he says. I nod. We “check” our luggage and board the bus, crisis averted.

It’s now 11pm. I’m sitting in my luxo super reclining dream chair at the front of the top floor, so I’ve got a 270-degree view of the Argentinian countryside. At about 9:15pm the “bus attendant” told us to “put our seats in the full and upright position, lower our leg rests and insert our tray tables” for dinner. They really take bus travel seriously! She brought two small sandwiches and poured us each a glass of champagne (no, seriously). I assumed this was dinner, until about 40 minutes later she reappeared with a plate of rolled deli meats, cheeses and empanadas. Apparently the sandwiches were a “snack.” The champagne continued to flow. “This must be dinner,” I thought to myself. 10 more minutes pass and the woman appears once more, this time carrying a steaming tray of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes as well as MORE champagne. We’re now pushing 10:30pm and here I am eating two sandwiches, an enormous plate of deli meats and cheeses, two chicken legs and mashed potatoes, all while “Take My Breath Away” pumped through the bus speakers. This “jam” was followed by a DVD of Cirque du Soleil in Vegas. The evening concluded with a US feature film starring Vince Vaughn that I had never heard of. I don’t even remember the name. I’m just about to watch an episode of The Office before drifting off myself. Peace out.

Update: It’s 8:12am. The entire bus was forcibly woken up at 7:15am with Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” blasting in Spanish. In protest, I left my seat in full recline until just minutes ago. I missed breakfast, which is alright because I’m still full from last night (all I’ve really done since arriving is eat hunks of meat and cheese quiches). At some point in the night my eye mask fell off and is now nowhere to be found. Oh god…they’re playing Brian Adams…in Spanish…and we almost hit a guy on a bike…and now it’s Robbie William’s “Angels” in Spanish…

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