In 1971, I spent seven months traveling around Latin America, from Mexico
to Argentina and Brazil. At some point, pressed among a crowd of Indians at
the back of a dilapidated bus, my itinerary was taking me from Ayacucho to
Cuzco, in the Peruvian Andes. Holes and stones in the unpaved road shook
the bus in a cloud of dust, and a pot flew off the roof. The driver stopped, and
a passenger ran to pick up the pot.
Less than a minute earlier, I caught sight of a little girl sitting by herself along
the road, and could have cried with frustration for being unable to photograph her.
The flying pot was a miracle. The bus’s central aisle was crowded with people sitting
on bundles, but I scrambled over them toward the door, just as the passenger was
returning with the pot.
“Where are you going?” the driver shouted."
“To urinate,” I lied, almost unconsciously.
And I ran with a Leica in hand.
“This is not the moment!” the driver yelled.
“But what the devil are you doing? Come back!
“…All right. Stay here and wait for tomorrow’s bus.”
And having said that, he pulled off.
My luggage and most of my film was on that bus, but I refused to worry
about them just then. I shot three quick pictures, gave the little girl a bag of avocado
pears I carried in my camera bag, and ran back. The bus was far already,
but not going very fast, and I was a runner. Even so, my heart was in my
mouth by the time I got back on board.
The driver shrank in his seat, but the Indians applauded. For a moment I stared at the driver wondering what to tell him. But I kept my mouth shut and went back to my seat. It had occurred to me that for a small tip this man would have given me all the time I needed. That lesson would serve me well on future occasions