The buses, or colectivos, in Paraguay, which I have lovingly described to you in my first days here, are often a topic that is top of mind for me. I find myself waiting some days only 5 minutes for a 43/77 to come rolling through, and other days 45 minutes may pass before the broken-down, sputtering bus comes my way. Some days I don’t mind the wait, some days I find myself cursing under my breath, (or not so quietly,) wondering where the hell the bus is.
I have recently learned that the reason you could wait a half hour without a bus in sight, and then suddenly 3 come rumbling past, is that the bus drivers are not paid to keep a specific schedule, but rather are paid for the number of cycles they complete in a day. Say they need to do their route start to finish 5 times a day, they will compete with each other to finish first, and will very often end up on the same path at the same time.
And by the way, the reason I wait for the 43/77 is that the buses were re-numbered a few years back to try and make the system more intelligible but it was too confusing for the public to learn the new numbers of their bus routes, so instead they kept both numbers – the old and the new – for each bus to ensure you could easily identify which bus was yours, hence the rare collaboration of the number 43 and 77.
The buses are a big part of my life, as I don’t have a car or other method of transportation, and so I find myself talking myself into submission almost daily to their crazy drivers, less-than-adequate “schedules”, and horrible fumes they emit as they rumble past.