Cruz del Sur bus company stood out. Phrases like “fully reclinable seats” and “personal entertainment console” and “full meal and beverage service” led me to believe I would be enjoying what I can only call an American experience. Traveling overseas, especially in countries not quite up to Old Glory’s standards of commodified comfort, can be inconvenient.
The first alarm bells sounded in my mind when I settled into my seat and discovered that its angle of recline left much to be desired. I had selected a private seat in the far-right rear corner of the bus and it only opened up to a 120-degree angle. The seats around me appeared to recline to a 140-degree angle or even further. The culprit, I discovered after some careful investigating, was that my particular seat had been constructed too close to the rear of the bus which limited its angle of recline. That they attempted to pass off such a forgery on the traveler — especially upon that most pampered and discerning of creatures, the traveler from the United States — defies all sense.
After recovering from this initial disappointment by taking several deep breaths and doing some yoga (thank Krishna for seated mountain pose), I decided to focus on the positives that remained. A video screen was affixed to the chair in front of me. I hit the power button and considered my options. These were: Books, Games, Internet, and Movie. I touched the Books icon and discovered among its meager selections an impenetrable mass of text called Systema Naturae and two collections of juvenile humor. It should go without saying that the jokes therein were not up to the standards of someone whose country has exported Two and a Half Men and hilarious exaggerations of Chuck Norris’ life to the civilized world. I tried a few games, but none of them worked correctly. The internet connection was nonexistent, which meant that my Facebook status update —“Disappointed in Peru!”—would receive no sympathetic views.
Finally, I selected Movies and found, under Family, Kung Fu Panda 2. If anything could salvage the situation it would be kicking back at a 120-degree angle and letting Jack Black’s voice talents distract me from my woes. As the credits for the movie began to roll, an announcement began to play over the bus’ PA system. A robot voice thanked us in crackly Spanish for selecting Cruz del Sur before suggesting, in its cracked, machine manner, places of interest we ought to visit throughout Peru, places, coincidentally, that were serviced by Cruz del Sur’s line of luxury buses. This voice made it impossible for me to hear the movie at all. It was then replaced by a piercing, interminable symphony of traditional pan flutes which led me to think, unkindly, I admit, that perhaps the disintegration of the Inca Empire wasn’t the worst occurrence in South American history.
As I’ve already imposed on the reader’s time enough, I will simply say that concerning the “full meal and beverage service,” first, a sandwich isn’t part of a “full” meal unless it comes with condiments, and second, I’m still waiting for my chamomile tea. If anyone from Cruz del Sur happens to read this and feels inclined to send it to Fiesta Hotel & Casino, Lima, I would be appreciative.
Now, after reciting this lengthy, if justified, series of disappointments, I would hate to be considered overly-critical of Peruvian overland transportation companies or of the country in general. There are differences in terms of culture and economic development which we must keep in mind. At the same time, I’m sure we can all agree as Americans that we are used to a certain baseline level of ease and indulgence, and that we suffer greatly in its absence. At the risk of seeming too generous, I will happily grant that Cruz del Sur’s luxury travel experience was 90% of what it should have been. The remaining 10% may not seem like much, but it is this remainder which has made America the most enviable nation on earth, and which sustains that level of greatness. It is this 10% which reclines our seat backs a dozen extra degrees, and lets us update our Facebook statuses regardless of where we are; it is this 10% which ensures that we can always hear what our Kung Fu pandas are saying, and guarantees that our sandwiches come with mayonnaise and mustard, or, if you prefer, ranch dressing.
I am a committed optimist. I am certain that Peru will continue to improve its level of customer care until it too reaches 100%, at which time Peru will take its place among the great and comfortable nations of this earth. At that time, the privations I once had to endure will undoubtedly seem like little more than a bad dream.