Real life in beautiful and ugly Guadalajara.
category: society

Every now and.. whenever, you’ll see a little story in the paper about someone having gotten splattered like a sandwich bag full of rotten tomatoes on some busy street or freeway.  In many of these reports you’ll find a reference to the pedestrian bridge nearby that wasn’t used by the victim (Oct. 15 / Feb. 19 / Feb. 18).  Sometimes the reporter tries to get a little jab in.. something like –  “you see what happens?”  or  “this is exactly why the city hesitates diverting funds for building more of these… no one uses them anyway.”  Often in these incidents, the driver just keeps on truckin away and disappears into the night.. or the clouds, or somewhere… hit and run..  the most abysmal grade of wretched…  

However  -  when you learn that here the driver is guilty until proven innocent, and the star witness is now roadkill (like he would ever have admitted fault anyway), and no one else is going to stick around to testify that the victim appeared out of nowhere like some damned suicidal stupid deer… even the most principled among us must seriously question the merit in doing the right thing and staying there at the scene of such a pointless and toxic casualty.. being as ruinous to the innocent driver as it tends to be. **

For both drivers and those walking it in such a densely populated city as Guadalajara, pedestrian bridges are not only a nice thing to have around – they’re absolutely essential.  And it’s safe to say that most pedestrians use them.  Those that don’t, however, are often accused of being brainless twerps and senselessly risking their lives… which I think is a bit unfair an accusation (yes, I’ve treaded the pavement myself on occasion).  True enough, if one hasn’t even the slightest judgement capacity, or doesn’t pay attention, or just gets desperate and goes for it, hoping that cars will automatically slow down on his behalf…  we’re obviously not referring to the best of human potential.   Although.. the organs of the tenderized cadaver might be of excellent use to someone else. 

But there are other reasons that people opt not to use them.  Some people are afraid of getting mugged at night or in the pre-dawn hours, as it makes for a good place to corner someone.. others are very nervous about the rickety structure (not that I could take the latter very seriously, especially considering the alternative).. Sometimes the bridge is just too far away from where the person needs to cross.

It’s not because of the climbing.  The fact that one must first go up, which invovles a little extra physical exertion in order to cross, is not the reason.. after all, if someone can’t even do that, how are they going to possibly fathom sprinting across the highway? 

I used to have to walk and take busses and cross bridges all over town.  The following is a scenario based on my own real experiences:

Wake up at five a.m., you need to be at work by 7.  It’s not that far away, maybe six km.  Not that you can’t walk it.. it’s just that upon arriving an hour later, why you would even bother to shower becomes a perfectly reasonable question.  You can catch the bus about one km away at the periférico (a highway that rings (almost) around the city), but you’ll have to cross it in order to get on one headed in the direction you need to go.  Prudent as you are, you leave your house at six, with every intention of reaching work sometime within the next hour.. you might arrive half hour early, or maybe just in the nick of time.. it’s all unpredictable when you’re counting on the bus. 

Upon arriving at the highway, you make your way to the pedestrian bridge.  A simple stairway up would be most practical and make things so easy.  But there isn’t one.  It’s a handicapped accessible zigzag zigzag construction.. two zigs and two zags, each about 20 meters in length… so, automatically another 80 meters to walk before even getting to cross… then another 80 meters when you get to the other side.  Of course, this is nothing significant in and of itself.. what harm is a little cardio going to do?. 

The problem occurs when, as you’re making your way up and around this maze of slants you notice a bus with your route# stopping there at the point you’re so close to you could practically reach out and touch it, and yet you’re so far from reaching it… the bus stops just long enough to let a couple on, a few off… before belching its way on down the road .. while you’re just barely reaching the plank to cross… meanwhile you look down at the highway you’re passing over and see two guys running across with plenty of clearance, and they’re already to the other side just as you reach the other side of the catwalk… and guess what?  They’re getting on a second bus with your route# that has just stopped… which you also will not catch because dammit, you still have another 80 meters of pinballing your way back down to do…

Finally you reach the promised land.. a tiny strip of dirt, gravel and garbage… and await the next bus that could arrive any second.. or minute.. or minutes… or maybe tens of minutes… yes, exactly 34 minutes later finally one arrives… and it passes right on by… practically bursting with passengers packed in like sardines.. all of whom, like yourself, had been waiting for half hour somewhere else up the road.   Finally, a minute or two later arrives another, also beyond max occupancy.. but it stops about 10 meters ahead and you make a starving dog dash to be first at the door..   Imagine how many just like yourself have shown up in that 30 minutes…

And now it’s a free for all.. everyone piling on near the entrance just trying to get even a fingertip to make contact with the vehicle, as if to officially claim their place in this, well.. call it anything but a line.  An older woman who’s not going to make it on before you shoots you this “have you no shame, young man?” scowl…  but she sees when you look her back with the frankest “nope” expression, that you ain’t buyin it.  There are moments when circumstance simply has no business bowing to chivalry.  Would she have awarded you even the slightest gesture of gratitude had you wavered?  I can answer that for you in case you’re not sure.

In the bumpy, jolting moments of suffocating calm that follow (not that calm is bad, but you are indeed literally suffocating), you wonder about those two guys you saw hustling across the freeway some 40 minutes earlier.  Where do you suppose they’ve made it to by now?  It’s now 7:10.. you sure as hell didn’t make it to work on time.

Nice, eh?  You think you’re not going to contemplate racing across the freeway next time?  Well, let me tell you what’ll probably happen if you do.  You’ll wait…. and wait.. for that opening that just never shows itself over a period within which you could have crossed the bloody zigzaggin pedestrian marvel above you surely five times over.   Always puts a cynical smile on my face thinking about it… I’m such an optimist.  Some bastards truly never get lucky, though.  But don’t get desperate.. you see, that’s when things get dangerous.


** A couple of interesting points I discovered while writing this:

If you are a driver involved in a freeway splattering, and you stop like a responsible driver should do at the scene  -  although the police will take you to jail, if you have insurance (liability or full coverage, but make sure and check your policy), and called them to the scene and they could determine your innocence, they’ll bail you out of jail as part of the coverage.  How about that?

Evidently, a state law went into effect about a year ago that automatically determines the victim guilty if the splattering takes place near a pedestrian bridge.

Well that’s all good, but… what about the horses??





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