The Mexico City metro system is wonderful. It’s amazingly clean (the platforms are marble, and they glisten). It goes everywhere (it has 163 stations along 280 miles of track). It’s quiet (the trains are on rubber wheels, and you can carry on a normal conversation beneath an open window while riding – try that in New York). And a ride costs 25 cents.
Best of all, riding the metro allows you to watch the human carnival, and it’s free. I recently sat next to a guy dressed in full clown gear – complete with wig, face paint and floppy shoes – acting like any other commuter on his way to work. And of course, no one gave him a second look.
In each and every car, someone is either selling something or entertaining the riders. All manner of cheap stuff is for sale – candy, chewing gum, pens, cheap toys, bootleg CDs, fake cosmetics. It’s a never-ending stream. After one vendor goes the length of the metro car, she exits and another vendor immediately gets on to take her place. And they cooperate with one another – I once saw two vendors mistakenly get on the same car at the same time, and one waited for the other to finish before starting his own sales pitch.
The entertainment is even better. The other day, a woman came on to perform. She had a guitar and a pan flute, and carried a toddler in a backpack. She strummed her guitar and alternated between playing the pan flute and singing (she was surprisingly good), all while the baby snoozed away in his carrier. That’s worth 10 pesos, right? But my timing was off. When we reached our stop, I caught her in the middle of singing a verse, but she managed to stop long enough to offer a “gracias” as I gave her a few coins. Now that’s multi-tasking.