A cab ride from Old San Juan to the airport was $7 and only 15 minutes. 2 bus rides from Old San Juan were $1.50 but would take an hour and a half.
1x($7/15min) > 2x($1.50/75 min)
Then factor in that the last bus departs at 10 pm, meaning I’d need to catch the 9 pm bus to catch the last 10 pm transfer bus, then wait around for 8 hours in the airport. With the cab, I could stay up all night in Old San Juan and leave at 3 am if I wanted to.
($7/15min)x1Hr > ($1.50/75)8Hr
The math was clear. It wasn’t a subjective choice. I had cold, hard numbers as proof that I should have as much fun in San Juan before it was all over.
But there was one other variable not factored in:
Compulsive need to take the harder, less traveled road > $+Time+Logic
Taking a cab was too easy. Any tourist can catch a cab. But to figure out bus routes and microbus routes, to be mistaken as a hobo rather than a tourist by locals who themselves are hobos. Even taking a bus at this point was too touristy.
So from 10 pm-6 am I walked the streets all around San Juan’s airport. I walked everywhere but inside the one place I was trying to go to. I caught the last bus from San Juan that dropped me off an hour and half’s walk away from the airport. I walked under bridges, over bridges, over fences, through a neighborhood where kids played by having a dog fight in the middle of the street, then finally to a highway—1 mile away from the airport, where my journey hit a brick (toll plaza) wall.
At the 2nd hour, I was turned away at the toll plaza and advised to get a cab. I unhoboed myself as much as possible, played the tourist card, joked, twirled my curls, batted my eye lashes and asked if I could just walk through on foot, but 20 minutes later I was turned back and walking down the last interstate exit off the highway in search of an ATM and a cab after all.
6Hrs to Departure=Still Looking Good
By the 4th hour, I’d called every cab company in San Juan without getting a single answer. Now miles away from the touristy areas, I tried hailing a cab. Then I tried waving a thumb. Then I sat.
4Hrs to Flight Departure=Not looking good
By the 5th hour of walking without finding a taxi, I got a text from a friend back home: “Long day, finally made it home safe. U busy?” I laughed. Then my phone died. Then I laughed again.
2Hrs to Flight Departure=Stop Looking
I sat at a bus stop, waiting for the first bus in the morning—after my departure time. A hobo passed by and nodded. After nodding off to sleep on strange street corner in a strange neighborhood in a strange country, 6 hours later (I think it was 6 hours at that point—cell phone battery being dead and all), I realized something strange—that nothing about the night seemed strange. Or scary. Or frustrating. It was exactly what I signed up for. It was somehow what I actually wanted. An experience. Something I couldn’t have gotten in an air-conditioned airport or at a trendy downtown cafe.
Earlier while walking toward the interstate, I stopped and talked to a homeless man. A dirty guy. A rough guy. In my tired mind, I earned the right to talk to him. He was my kind. The kind who find it normal to hang out in a ditch on the median of a busy street intersection.
At 7 am, a bus finally arrived, took me the bus station, and 10 minutes later, a bus to the airport arrived. Finally I could go directly to the airport; do not pass Go; do not take more chances, do not risk missing yet another flight.
Long night+Already Missed My Flight Anyway=Better Make It Worth It
Heading back to San Juan—on a bus, not a cab, of course.