The other day, as I picked my daughter up from school, we took a bus and witnessed an almost-accident at the Plaza Miranda in Cumaná.
At a traffic light a car that was trying to avoid hitting two national guards who were doing what they do best (ride their motorcycles as if they were in a demolition derby) slightly "hit" (?) a boy who was crossing the street with his mother.
There was a big commotion on the bus and even though I can write an entire post about what went wrong in that traffic light in terms of the kind of bad driving and bad street-crossing that we practice here, I want to write about what the people on the bus did, which is something we think about as peculiarly Venezuelan (most likely it is a universal thing, you tell me).
Latinos in general are stereotypically portrayed as loud and a bit inquisitive (to put it nicely). I would say that Venezuelans tend to display some behaviors that may them match that stereotype. They did it superbly on this occasion.
Miliseconds after the bus stopped abruptly there were about 20 voices in the bus yelling some theory about what had happened right in front of us. Some of the wildest theories came from the back, from the part of the bus no one had a good look at the road.
The bus had hit the boy
The bus had hit the mother
The bus had hit both pedestrians
The bus had hit the motorcycle killing both men in uniform (that was probably me, wishful-thinking out loud).
After a few seconds and the confirmation that no one was actually hit, they started to yell at the men on the motorcycle, which is something I am seeing more often. People, to a certain extent, have lost the respect and fear they used to have for the military and are starting to let them know publicly how tired people are of their abuses and law-bending practices.
Then, almost simultaneously, they started to stick their heads out of the bus windows to give instructions to the mother of the kid: write down the plate, take him to the hospital, take him to the National Guard headquarter, take them to court, go to the center for the protection of women, and so on and so forth.
All this is happening in a matter of seconds, we passed the traffic light and go over the bridge onto Mariño Avenue and people keep arguing about what must have happened back there. First, they started to speculate about responsibility. Was it the mother's, who crossed the street at the wrong light? Was it the kid's? The National Guards'? The guy in the car's?
I was getting sick already. Everybody was talking almost at the same time. I wanted to get off the bus, but I was some 10 blocks away and it was noon. I was not willing to walk home. Then, they started to speculate about what kind of injuries the kid had most likely suffered: from a simple bruise to some broken ribs they won’t notice until the next day, to internal bleeding and possible brain damage.
To avoid being called prophets of doom or mere speculators, they all came up with the right course of action to treat the kid’s injuries: from mango leaves to witchery. Their remedies came from their own experiences in car accidents, which everyone started to relate, also almost simultaneously. It was as if were in some therapy group and we were given prompts to talk about. Spontaneous conversation groups were established and they switched with every prompt.
Finally, I got to my stop and was quite relieved to leave that bus and all those people in that crazy and sterile conversation. They probably got home and continued the speculation about what happened to the kid or the mother, or the guys on the motorcycle, only this time members of their families, who weren’t even on the bus to begin with, will add their two cents as if they were on the driver’s seat.
What the hell am I doing? I've become one of them!
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