Today I got to the great Ricaurte station and found there more people than usual. I had to take an F1 bus, but the door was like unto the house where the friends of the paralytic found Jesus, and there was no getting in through the roof. I squeezed out of the station more or less intact. Some others hopped the rail.
I caught a taxi and also an interesting, talkative driver. He referred to the TransMilenio as a monopoly and explained that the colectivo drivers (the informal, highly disorganized and essential transportation alternative) were all on strike. No colectivos? No, so everybody who was not in a taxi (big day for them) was in the TransMilenio. Ah!
Why on strike? The mayor’s office, which runs the monopoly of the TransMilenio, is at the point of buying all the private, disordered public transportation and making it all part of the TransMilenio. But they’re getting all these vehicles at a special discount (50%) conveniently imposed by law. Hence the strike.
When I was returning, after watching seven crowded F70s pass, I got on the eighth feeling as if I had somehow outsmarted everybody because it really wasn’t overly crowded (you know a bus is crowded when not even the Colombians try to squeeze on). At the great Ricaurte station, however, the crowds were unbelievable. The whole thing full from end to end on the platforms and all the way down into the tunnel. I followed a bright young fellow who began working his way sideways through the crowd, and fifteen minutes later we emerged.
Have you ever wormed your way through a crowd going in the other direction at a shuffle for fifteen minutes uninterrupted?
It was a tight squeeze, but most people were bearing it with resignation and good humor. One woman cried out “Don’t push!” which only caused a ripple of laughter to work through the jostling crowd. I don’t think any people on the planet do crowds and crowded spaces so well as Colombians. I admire it.
It was an interesting experience.
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The branch of government currently most in favor is the Judicial. The Supreme Court just shot down Uribe’s re-election bid, and from what I can tell of public sentiment, he isn’t likely to make it if he did run. The taxi driver told me the Supreme Court had saved the country, and I believe another person told me that democracy was saved—something like that.
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You know what else Bogota seems unanimous about? The mayor is an absolute failure. I’m thinking if there is a protest to get him out of government, against all my principles I would join just to be rid of the guy before he reduces the quality of life any more. He’s somehow related to a former dictator, only the former (and only one they’ve ever had) is held in higher regard than our present mayor.