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The other day on the way home from the beerfest in Malloco, I watched a really unpleasant scene unfold between the conductora (female driver) of the bus and one of the passengers.

First, the situation was tense. We were all walking back on the highway away from Santiago, hoping to catch the bus before it filled up at the entrance to the beer fest. It was late, some people had been drinking quite a bit, though my friend and I had had just a little beer, and were doing just fine. One of the passengers got on the bus, about 18 years old, lowslung faded jeans, a white belt with studs, some kind of tee shirt, medium length brown hair. She insisted on paying the student rate to get home from the beer fest at 9:30 at night.

on the bus to Malloco

And the driver wasn’t having it. “You’re not on your way to or from school,” she said. And the girl insisted, “I’m a student, I pay the student rate.” This went on for a while and the driver opened her “cage” (this bus runs near Pedro Aguirre Cerda and Cerillos, and all the buses on this route have metal mesh that divides the driver from the passengers), and said, “Bájese! No sea fresca!” (Get off the bus, don’t be mouthy/fresh. -in the politest possible grammatical form). The girl didn’t get off and the woman said she’d call the police, but the police were all busy directing traffic and trying to prevent people from walking up the highway to catch the bus, so there was no way they’d do anything, and the girl knew it.

45 minutes drag on when you’re on a bus with drunken teenagers (the drinking age in Chile is 18), practicing their English and saying filthy things to each other, and I kept on thinking about this girl, and how rude she’d been to the driver. And also how much she was shouting and being the center of attention there on the bus.

As we got closer to San Borja, say a couple of blocks out, she started heckling the driver, “Sos shora, sos shora” (basically, you think you’re so cool/tough, but with the lower-class and very looked-down-upon pronunciation of chora (cool), with the initial sh- rather than ch- sound). She went on and on, using words that are considered typical of the lower class, like “nadien” instead of “nadie.” You could tell she was trying on this accent for size. It’s not how she usually talks, she was just trying to put the bus driver in (what she thought was) her place.

It had nothing to do with me, but I was so angry at this fresca, this girl who, upon looking at her, was comun y corriente (just a regular kid), her clothes looked like she bought them at Patronato, where cheap knockoffs, and heavy doses of lycra rule the day. Not that I think that someone from the upper class has the right to denigrate a bus driver, but it would have made more sense if she at least came from money, which her appearance indicated was not the case. Just a regular kid.

We all eventually got off the bus, and I had to restrain myself from saying something to this girl about her lack of respect for the bus driver, her friends, the rest of the passengers and herself. I felt too young, too foreign, too angry to say anything. She showed up on the metro platform with me and I purposely got in a different car so I wouldn’t see her again.

And the story could end here, but yesterday I was leaving the house to meet up with an out of town guest, and I saw a group of escolares (schoolkids, this time highschoolers, and actually from Liceo La Aplicación, which is near my house, here they are protesting) being given a dressing-down by some older women, maybe 60ish.

Y es mas, usas la corbata de tu colegio, y tomas en la calle
! (And what’s more, you’re wearing your school tie and drinking in the street!) The kids were shrinking away from the women, but not saying anything. It went on, “Show some respect, who do you think you are, what kind of example is that for the other kids.” And the kids were contrite. They apologized, and looked at the ground.

And since I love contrasts I couldn’t help but compare the two situations. And wish that those ladies had been on the bus to give Ms. Mouthy a piece of their minds. And think about how sometimes, I just can’t wait to get old so I can say absolutely whatever is on my mind.