While Mark negotiates the traffic at rush hour, I have time to take it all in. We know our way around now so my navigation duties are on hiatus. I came to a realization while sitting in traffic in Panama yesterday. The reason there is so much fast, erratic driving back home in the USA is because people are hungry.
People drive fast and aggressive at times here in Panama but they do not seem stressed out by it. I think this is because Americans spend a lot of time in traffic and either sacrifice or are late for one of the three important meals of the day. Maybe they forgot to pack a snack for the road. In Panama, just roll down your window while in rush hour traffic and get some food. People who do not have low blood sugar from hunger are a lot happier people.
We can get a hot fresh empanada and slowly move along the road a bit to buy a side of fried plantains (like having a sandwich and chips). The vendor will add some sauce for you—no extra charge. We have seen people with small BBQ’s smoking meats on a stick to sell to hungry drivers. Or maybe a person just needs a snack to tie them over and might purchase some peanuts or potato chips. Then get an ice cold soda or bottle of water to wash it all down. If you are still hungry or are having a craving for a sweet treat you can get dessert. Try a warm bag of churros with sweet sauce or a small bag of candy. Some days there will be whole or cut up fruit for sale. We saw people selling food along the roadside in Colombia but only in Panama have we seen entrepreneurs competing to sell different courses of a meal while walking the dotted dividing line during rush hour traffic.
We joke with people who live inside Panama City who drive to the beach on weekends. They can get fast food on the way without having to leave the road.
They work hard in a dangerous setting. The narrow lanes of the highway become more narrow from large trucks and buses. Most motorcyclists ride down the middle between cars and dart quickly in and out. It often gets tight as I watch the vendors dodge a car’s mirror or step aside for a motorcycle blasting past. These vendors have a lot of courage. More than I would ever have.
This week there was a one day bus strike in Panama. This caused a lot of heavy traffic. The only people happy about this were the vendors who worked the traffic. They must have made a bundle that day. Good for them I say. The car loads of people get snacks, the vendors get a lot of sales and everyone is happy. Life is good.