Plague days errands by bus, with eyes wide open

Waiting in Anton for the bus back to El Bajito to fill up. It was a slow day there, and in Coronado, where I went in the morning to get the Claro chip recharged. Not that many customers in the stores, not that many people riding the buses, not that many buses. Slow when I got back, as shortly after I returned the wireless Internet connection went out. So I process the photos. And write. Photo by Eric Jackson.

Slow and dangerous times

by Eric Jackson, a day’s errands

The night before, I posted the yellow caution warning with notice that 26 COVID deaths had been reported the day before. I conked out early and slept well. So well, in fact, that one of the things I had in mind would have to wait for another day. I’ll get to it soon enough, but to go to the El Valle market in the morning by bus from where I live, I need to start out early.

The chip renewal? Two major ways: take the Anton bus and head out to Coronado from there, or take the Penonome bus and go to the Claro office across from Super 99. First bus to come by was San Juan de Dios to Anton, and when it pulled in just before the pedestrian bridge the Anton to Panama bus was waiting. And waiting. With another longer than usual wait at Rio Hato. Few people walking around, nobody waiting at the bus stop. A few passengers did come along. There weren’t the other buses coming along to prompt us more quickly on our way.

In Coronado, at Claro, at the dollar store, at El Rey, no waiting. Billboards, except for those advising that some particular business was close by, were almost entirely empty. A couple of formal businesses that had been there on my last visit weren’t anymore. Although they weren’t getting lots of customers either, the informal vendors were as numerous as before, maybe a bit more so.

Both there to Coronado and back, the obvious signs of businesses smashed into and left abandoned have stabilized, Probably a bunch of the people who were doing that are now in jail. Some of the places are boarded up, with for sale signs. At one place, the rubble is gone and what was a fonda is now a barbershop. Like hermit crabs after a wave has washed over, popular capitalism is quick to be back on its feet.

Breakfast was a tepid caramiñola from a stand a lady set up under the north side of the pedestrian bridge. The spot was hit, 75¢ was cycled into the informal economy.

The bus for the return trip filled up, with a lot of the folks boarding headed toward some of the upscale places: Punta Barco, Rio Mar, Bijao, Decameron, El Riu Playa Blanca. More than used to be the case before COVID.

There are more gringos on the buses and at the bus stops. Or at least, folks whose appearances and manners of carrying themselves suggest such. Yeah, yeah – here I go like one of the cops who hassles people for ID, looking for foreigners whose papers aren’t in order. But there are certain looks. Might be hard to tell the American from the Canadian from the German. But then you go by the Riu and there’s a blonde woman outside, squatting on her haunches while smoking a cigarette and pecking at a cell phone and that suggests German to me. They guy with the Rough Riders cap may not be an actual Canadian, but he probably is. The two women going to Bijao, who had bags of groceries and didn’t seem to know exactly where the bus would stop seemed like American tourists to me. Maybe I am wrong on all scores. I don’t think so.

As this epidemic wears on, there are more older folks in Coronado who look worn out, whose clothes – like mine – don’t fit so well. COVID, directly but even more so indirectly, has taken a toll on all of us. To much isolation, too much fear, too many economic setbacks, too much bad news. Did we hippies get too pretentious about our generation back then? Despite knowing the history, did we harbor plenty of doubts when our parents were referred to as “the greatest generation?” They left their marks, good and bad, and they survived their ordeals. We’ll survive ours and leave memories and records good and bad. Turns out that situations change, but the human condition doesn’t all that much. How we have behaved in these trying times will not be forgotten.

Back to Anton in search of a fried chicken lunch and something to bring back to make the livestock’s dinner more interesting, the usual fonda had fewer selections from which to choose. It’s a function of fewer customers. Pieces of bofe would be the preference for both dogs and cats. The dogs like chicharrones as well or better, but they’re not so nutritious. Some of the cats will eat those things if broken up small and some won’t, but they really don’t fulfill a cat’s cravings for meat. No bofe. Chicharrones to go, chicken for lunch, then pick up newspapers and kitten chow next door. Then get on the bus and wait.

And while I’m waiting, read about all the postures taken in the face of a bad economy.

The people that are doing better than ever? I know they exist, but I don’t know any of them. The people whose dreams fall well short of probability? Surely I am one of them. The people who are just muddling through as best can be done? Aren’t we all?

When a reader complains on my Facebook page that I don’t write enough “happy news?” I call them like I see them. You can get plenty of triumphalist spin from the government ministries’ Twitter feeds if you need that stuff. It’s plague times. Better days are ahead, but they’re not here now.



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night oil







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