When I first arrived in Bogota I was faced with a little problem. On my second day in the country I went to a meeting about security where I was told to never take the bus because they are targets for the the guerrillas. I was told the only safe mode of transport was to take a taxi. However, when I met any Colombian person the first thing they would say to me was "Please don't take the taxis. They are not safe." One person I talked to went as far as to tell me that each time his wife leaves the house he begs her to please never, never take a taxi by herself. This left me with no idea how to safely leave my apartment. The taxis are safe if you call them and get a password to give them when they pick you up, however, my 8th grade Spanish does not always allow this as an option.
As a result I spent more time than I'd like to admit at the mall down the street treating myself to McFlurry's. Nothing says glamorous, international traveler like sitting at the local food court alone in a pair of yoga pants. Jealous?
I found out that all of the Colombians were warning me against taking a taxi solo because of the Paseos Millonarios. This translates into Millionaire Ride. Apparently, a thief will pose as a taxi driver. However, instead of taking you where you want to go he will pick up some of his friends who will pop in the back seat with you carrying some knives or guns and ask you to withdraw as much money as possible from various ATMs until you hit your daily limit.
Firstly, this made me nervous because of my bank's crazy security policy. The last time I tried to make a wire transfer they flagged my account for suspicious activity and I had to spend several hours verifying my identity by answering various security questions. Some of them I didn't even know, and I'm me. Honestly, does everyone really remember the year their Nana was born, what street their aunt lives on, and the address of the branch they opened their account at over ten years ago? It seems like if I found myself on a Paseo Millionario and my account was somehow flagged I would probably have even more trouble answering these questions and the robbers would probably not be too impressed.
I was also nervous about the possibility of them wanting some sort of larger payment. Unfortunately, when a lot of people think of Americans they think we all grew up like this guy:
Sadly, this was really not true in my case. I didn't have one of these in my childhood home (but it would have been so cool if I did which is what I used to think every time I watched the show when I wasn't busy thinking about how cute Jason Bateman was.):
I thought it would be really great if I could get some sort of small tattoo on my wrist or carry some kind of official card letting potential robbers know that I am really not even close to being a millionaire so would be a real waste of their time. When I really racked my brain I realized that while I probably did know about two millionaires, neither one of them like me enough to pay my ransom or anything.(I would like to add that is in no way a result of a lack of wishing and hoping on my part.)
My own personal philosophy is something like this:
Which has led to me doing a lot of this:
Through copious amounts of travel and a choice of a low paying career I have managed to avoid most of the problems that Biggie warned us about back in the day. I guess when I read The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer and she talked bout society keeping us in line by giving us the illusion of security when such a thing does not actually exist I took her a little too seriously.I have questioned this plan a time or two but then I realized that a new plan would require a job that forces you to work TWELVE MONTHS a year. This is just ludicrous. How could I go on road trips and watch The Wendy William's Show?
It's really such a good show. How you doin'?
However, I have a feeling that if I ever find myself on a Paseo Millonario I might be questioning my path and wishing I had become a businessman who could call an assistant who could wire some robbers a large sum of cash.
Because I knew a Paseo Millionario would not work out well for me or anyone else involved, I decided to start taking the bus. I reasoned that not only did all of the Colombians I met think they were safe, but they were way cheaper than cabs and part of deciding not to be a businessman means giving up some luxuries (I can't lie. Many times while dragging heavy suitcases through Port Authority and sitting through 6 hour rides on the Hound I have felt as though I have taken a wrong turn somewhere at which point I have to concentrate on the three months out of the year that I don't work.)
The buses were scary at first since they don't have specific stops, you have to flag them down. I also can't figure out if they have numbers or anything. I have to strain to read the painted signs they have in the window to see if I recognize any of the locations and then hope I get on the right one. Once you get on the driver immediately takes off with a jerk. He then takes your money and makes change while both steering the bus and driving stick. This seems like too many jobs for one guy to be doing in heavy traffic, but it only costs 75 cents so it's hard to complain.
However, once I get on and sit down without falling down (which I always consider a big accomplishment)I find I m surrounded by seemingly normal people who all look as though they are on their way to work. While living in San Francisco, I saw people pass out, nod out, freak out, do heroine, and forget to wear pants on the bus. The buses in Bogota actually seem a lot less frightening. Everyone is always wearing pants!
Besides, I think it would be best for me to do everything in my power to avoid a millionaire ride since I am not sure any Colombian robbers would like to hear my take on Germain Greer, the dangers of materialism, or the magic of The Wendy Williams Show. I'm also pretty sure that they don't take IOUs.