Equator Gringos

September 10, 2007

Inside the Magic Bus.

Filed under: Ecuador — lstollin @ 8:49 pm

On the way to school this week I was stunned to find the bus/building (see “on the way home from school” entry of a week or so ago) torn down, much of it completely missing and the roof upside down on the sidewalk. This was a shocking sad irony, given my “save the bus” comments so recently felt and publicized. I was taking a few pictures when an older gentleman opened a nearby gate.

BEFORE — A neighborhood and cultural icon:




I approached the man to commiserate and seek a neighbor’s gossipy perspective on this tragedy. The bus had been there for 13 years, I believe he said, first a paper shop, then briefly a restaurant, and empty now for a long time. Eventually revealed was that this gentleman himself owned the property and had himself sold the bus. I opened up, got vulnerable, and shared my feelings of affection for the bus, opening my arms wide to take in the street, the neighborhood, the city, indeed the country, telling him that it was one-of-a-kind. He accepted my point of view, admitting that it had been, indeed, unusual.

He offered that A.C., my school, had approached him in the past to buy the property, but they wanted to pay way too little. At this point, knowing the sensitivity of the subject, but characteristically unable to let it go, I put on my ultrapolite, beat-around-the-bush Spanish, and popped the question: “I would like to ask you a question that I know I have no right to ask, and I hope it doesn’t upset you, and of course you have the right to not answer, but if it is not too much of an imposition, would you mind me asking how much you sold it for?”

The bus property is on an acute-angled corner, across an alley from our school (the most expensive and prestigious school in Quito), in an up-and-coming neighborhood where small houses and tumbledown properties are being razed to make room for 5-story apartment and professional buildings. What would his answer be? For some reason the number $11,000 was ringing in my head, but of course I had no idea. When the answer came, a radical paradigm shift was in order. “I sold it for 50 dollars.”

Suddenly I realized that he hadn’t sold the property at all, just the bus itself! He had sold it for scrap metal, this quirky little architectural wonder. Like melting down a Calder — nay, the Eiffel Tower — for pocket change! What could I say? Had I been given two day’s notice, I could have passed the hat and raised twice that at the school to keep the man happy and the magic bus in place for posterity.

The only redeeming part of this for me was that I could finally satisfy my daily curiosity as to what the bus looked like on the INSIDE:



1 Comment »

  1. Luke, What a shame – the little icon is gone! Suppose change is inevitable:-)

    Comment by Bettye Halperin — September 11, 2007 @ 9:56 am

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