Getting there yesterday morning…

Can you much blame the Panama Oeste bus drivers, who are squeezed between high fuel prices and steady bus fares set by the government? Can you imagine the riot squad, who mostly come from social origins much like the drivers, and who, being sort of even-handed, also more or less kept many bus stops from being used by inter-urban drivers to pick up passengers and scab on the brief and intermittent strike? As in, keeping some semblance of “the peace.” Photo, from a bus, by Eric Jackson.

Early on a protest morning

by Eric Jackson

A later start than I had planned. It was just shy of five dark thirty when I got to the usual bus stop. Until the sun is fully up, better to stand under the light than sit in the shade of the caseta. But I had not yet gotten under the light when the Juan Diaz – Anton bus pulled up.

Got to the puente in Anton in short order, and went into Doña Evy’s to grab some caffeine and carimañolas. Breakfast on the run. A mostly full Santiago bus was filling up, so I decided to skip that one and take the time to scarf down my carimañolas and cola and wait for a ride with more selection. I was barely done when the Anton to Panama bus pulled up and I chose the dangerous but photographically advantageous shotgun seat. It had the added advantage of a bit more space for my chacara and the cat carrier with cat-to-be-spayed inside that I was carrying.

USUALLY when I have over the years taken the bus into Panama at this hour, it’s full of construction workers. But this time, although the bus filled with working people, few were carrying tools. More than two-thirds of SUNTRACS members are currently not working due to the epidemic and its economic consequences. Few got off at the stalled money laundering towers and upscale gated neighborhoods where a lot of them used to go to work before the virus hit us. The eternal question: Who eats the losses on this unsold / unfinished inventory?

Lots of service workers on this early morning bus ride the Monday after Palm Sunday. A bunch got off at San Carlos stops. A lot got off in the Coronado area. They were replaced by others on their way to jobs in the city.

You have heard about how “The early bird gets the worm?” Do YOU eat worms? Would you accept them if offered to you for brunch? No, you HATE worms, at least at meal times. So you don’t want to be EARLY if you don’t want to eat worms. Basic preschool pedagogy, for those who would push to the head of the line.

But with Spay Panama just reactivating, going to their HQ in Bethania near the gym, appointments need to be made and you don’t want to be LATE and and miss one. Especially if your little finca is besieged by cats who were abandoned during the epidemic for the convenience of unscrupulous city dwellers, and the progeny of these animals that were put out of cars, which then drove away. 

(El Bajito as dumping ground? Now THERE is a bit of class snobbery for you, compounded by a PRD representante who doesn’t care to hear about dog and cat population problems.)

Anyway, I was concerned about getting this cat to her appointment on time, and had been following the transportistas’ call for protests in Panama Oeste that morning.

No sign of it, until in Chorrera we passed by the protesters massing. Just ahead of a scene like this — but not at this particular spot — pirated from the Internet:

Published on Twitter by Tráfico Panamá. Didn’t see a credit or a copyright notice.

Luck held out. Past Chorrera, onto the turnoff to the Arraijan ensanche.

Then, at the bus stop in Arraijan town center, a traffic jam and a bunch of cops. There were spaces to fill on the bus, but neither this driver nor any of the others were picking up passengers. Although the inter-urban drivers were not participating in their Panama Oeste colleagues’ stoppage, neither were they that brazenly scabbing on it.

So, how severe?

Maybe a half-hour caught in very slow traffic. Passed some riot cops and some protesting drivers, but they were not doing battle. Other media report cat-and-mouse stoppages, nobody really committed to an all-out brawl.

Pulled into the terminal at Albrook at 8:20. A bit of time to kill. Got a newspaper to read and a chicken thigh and chicha de maracuya for part 2 of breakfast before grabbing a taxi to Bethania.

I was early. Read about it in a story to follow.

I don’t THINK that either the kitty or I got any worms yesterday.

Waiting it out. Life is more bearable in this country when ditching the gringo values and getting into pana passivity. Time is not money. It’s just time. Photo by this Panagringo, Eric Jackson.



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