Hasta la Visa - Mustard comedy magazine
Hasta la Visa

True Stories

Hasta la Visa

The toughest part of working in Mexico City is surviving the commute.

The day begins when you realise that you've overslept again, so you fling yourself down the five-storey rickety fire escape stairs with sufficient gusto to wake yourself up, but enough caution to avoid hospitalization.


Stride purposefully to the station; this not only makes you look less muggable but also lets you work out where the hell you are by covering ground quickly. Be wary of uncovered drains and yawning chasms in the pavement.

Try not to jump out of your skin when the pretty young girl at the station entrance selling newspapers suddenly bellows "el GRAAAFico dos Pesoooonnghs" in a phlegm-rattling honk. Only 75 per cent of the entry turnstiles function at any one time, but don't ask the guards for help; they are employed to lounge over the disabled access gate, sneering at the incoming fools.

Mexico City's underground system has piped music, so try to enjoy it. Personal commuting highlights include Kum On Feel The Noize, the Hawaii 5-0 theme and Good King Wenceslas.

Whenever a person-sized space appears, someone will leap in to sell you a bright pink Harry Potter toothpick, or some worryingly sharp knives. Keep out of the main aisle as this is the domain of the itinerant salesman.

Also avoid the doorways, as blind singers will enter with a microphone in hand, and wobble down the carriage crooning love songs for loose change. The more reckless the train driver, the more profitable the singer's day: for every sudden stop that leaves them haplessly wrapped around a bench, legs akimbo, passengers wince and dig a little deeper.

If you take a seat, remember that they are incredibly slippery and you will slide off whenever the driver accelerates, slows down or coughs.

Ladies, beware: it's common for the weird fella sitting opposite to hand you a love poem plus landline, fax and mobile number. You may also get followed by a frisky pensioner wishing to buy you a coffee for undisclosed favours. Keep them at arm's length by prodding a rolled up copy of El Grafico at their chest.


When trying to locate your bus stop from the several thousand outside the station, remember that asking for directions here is always a bad idea. Mexicans are naturally helpful, and if they don't know where your stop is they will simply guess.

Also be aware that many of the destinations shown are fictitious and that the driver's route summary may be at some remove from reality; your best bet is to ask a fellow passenger.

Buses start moving before the final few passengers have got on, so if wearing slip-on shoes, try not to leave one sitting on the pavement.

Once aboard, take a seat if available. Ergonomically designed for dwarves, anyone over four feet tall will need to tuck their knees behind their ears and hold their breath for the duration of the journey. This is, however, preferable to swinging like a monkey from the ceiling handrails whilst the bus driver races his friends up the hill, tootling his horn with vigour.

Traffic lights, road signs and the highway code are for guidance only, so if your position affords you a view of the road, try not to look.

The minibus driver's music of choice is traditional Mexican played VERY LOUDLY, so just try to enjoy it. Typically, a short man with a nasal voice laments the departure of his wife following her discovery of his mistress (who has now burned down his home), the loss of his job and liberty (following a row with sundry authority figures) and various death threats, all to a backing of parping trumpets, jolly trombones and robust tuba. Despite the lyrics, the vocals are delivered with the same glee one sees in a dog peeing on a tree stump who has just seen another dog's bum to sniff.

The final stretch

Bus drivers tend to change down a gear rather than actually stop when you need to get off, so you're better off jumping out at the traffic jam nearest to your office. Your company will doubtless have a very complicated security system of x-ray machines, revolving doors, security guards and metal detectors. But all of it will be switched off, so you can breeze in with a cheery "¡Buenos días!" and a briefcase full of grenades. The reception staff get paid a bonus every time they get your name wrong, so get used to your pseudonyms.

Follow your nose to the vat of industrial strength coffee while avoiding the lovestruck janitor. Congratulations! Your journey is over and your day can begin.

~ E.T.

Illo: S.C.


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