The three-hour bus ride from Guadalajara to Morelia is long and the scenery dull. I knew this in advance as I had asked a couple of friends about the trip before I went. “There are some beautiful areas along the way. Lovely,” one said. “No there aren’t,” the other disagreed. “He’s right,” corrected the original travel reviewer. “Boring,” he sighed. While I had been warned, the lack of natural beauty on that bus route still felt like a slap from an undernourished Mother Nature.
Before the bus departed, the driver stood at the head of the aisle and announced that this was the bus headed to Morelia, just in case someone on it thought we were headed to Peoria or Oshkosh. There was, however, an unsettling quality about the driver. It combined a pinch of job-boredom, a dash of sleaze, and a tablespoon of lunatic. His eyes screamed, “If I have to drive this goddam boring route one more time I will go fucking crazy and rip this shitty uniform off as we pass a van full of nuns.”
It took a while to leave Guadalajara’s suburbia, but once away from its gradually spaced apart residential neighborhoods and thinning business districts, I found myself in a barren land of bland beiges and greens. The landscape was duller than pastels on an old black-and white TV. Some beiges were yellower than others, but that did not make them yellow. It made then jaundiced beiges. The greens varied in shades from light sage to pale light sage to dusty beige sage. Eventually, rock formations appeared on the landscape, adding browns to the color scheme. But they, too, were dull. Soft rust, cool copper, and dusty beige brown. Had we entered an area of strong reds, vibrant blues, or neon pinks, I probably would have gone into cardiac arrest and would have been abandoned on the side of the road in order for the driver to maintain his schedule. That would have been, however, a preferred alternative to the eternal blandness I was enduring.
The general topography was not flat. There were knolls, hills, canyons, and, of course, the aforementioned jagged rock formations in their forgettable shades of brown. Mountains were in the distance. We eventually came to them and passed through a pass or two. They were lined with trees in a green tone I could only describe as a mix of anemic avocado, over-watered pale lime water color , and infected runny buggers. These mountains, like their color, were nothing special. There was not a Kilimanjaro, Fuji, Rainier, Rushmore, or Bunker Hill among them. They looked like the breasts of a thirteen-year-old lying on her back in a faded green swimsuit during the 1934 Oklahoma Dust Bowl.
There are very few towns along the route between Guadalajara and Morelia. The rare sightings of towns would be in the distance. One could tell they were there because a tall cathedral steeple stood out against the colorless nothingness. There were no other pieces of skyline. These pueblos didn’t even have a set of McDonald’s Golden Arches, making it very clear to me that the poor, hungry children in these villages had not gone to church enough and prayed for a miraculous Mickey D’s. They remained Big Mac deprived. Perhaps, God was focusing on the prayers of the New England Patriots, Miss Columbia in the Miss Universe Pageant, or Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer that weekend. These were small burgs with a smattering of tiny homes and tiendas. My guess is that there were more letters in the towns’ names than there were residents.
Few businesses dotted the highway. But occasionally an “Abbarotes” sign on a tiny dilapidated shell of a business indicating it was or had been a grocery store would zip by. I wasn’t sure the sign was advertising what they had to sell or pleading for what the owner or clerk needed. An ironic moment occurred as we passed a particularly well-lit “Abbarotes” sign, one that apparently thought it was a Broadway marquee. As fate would have it, I was listening on my iPod to ABBA and the Mamma Mia! soundtrack. I was singing their lyrics in my head, lyrics I had learned by rote. Aaahh, I thought. Abbarotes means groceries. “ABBA rotes” are people who have memorized the complete ABBA songbook.
I had noticed we had passed no lakes or rivers on this excursion. No ponds. No waterfalls. No waterparks with slides or pools for children. Not even a fountain depicting St. Blandia, the Patron Saint of Beige. I wondered, therefore, why so many passengers were going to the bathroom. There were no visual powers of suggestion triggering tingles in the urinary tract. But, more important, I wondered why they chose to relieve themselves in their seats when there was a bathroom at the back of the bus.
After a while, out of boredom, I began to resort to childhood travel games. I began to count license plates on passing cars from far-off places. I picked Rhode Island. How many did I count? Not one. Then I began to count Bernie Sanders bumper stickers. How many did I count? Not one. When we crossed into the State of Michoacán, I began counting license plates from that state. Do you know how many I counted before we arrived at the Morelia bus station? 1,593. If you don’t believe me you can go back and recheck my work. I started counting right after the beigey-sage colored shrub next to the faded rust-colored boulder.
We passed through several toll booths between Guadalajara and Morelia. I would notice the slowing down as we approached the booths and I would feel the momentary semi-stop and jostle of the bus. And then we’d be off again as if no payment or showing of a pass had been done. How, I thought, do we get through so quickly even if this is a bus? Then, as we exited the final one, it dawned on me. The drivers, needing a little excitement in their dreary work day, a humorous break, perhaps stopped just long enough to flash their tits at the toll booth attendants as the buses passed through. An odd idea, I know. Why I thought this, I’m not certain. Perhaps I had subconsciously remembered the sleazy quality about him I had sensed. Was it because the endless bland beige and sickly green landscape had driven me over the edge? Had the acrid smell of peed upon bus seat cushions finally created a mental breakdown, a break from reality, and driven me into a world of thoughts and ideas even more crazy than my regular ones?
Therefore, when we arrived in Morelia, as I stepped to the front of the bus to exit, I smiled at the driver, using the guise to say “Gracias,” and checked his shirt tails. To my surprise, they looked perfect as did his tie. There was no evidence he had flashed his tits to toll booth workers or, for that matter, a van full of nuns.
His beige trousers and light sage colored thong, however, were at his ankles.