Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In The Beginning. . .2006

The first few years I was enchanted by absolutely everything. Oh isn’t that the cute! Cow flop, right here in the middle of my cobbled lane. Nestled in fallen lavender Jacaranda blossoms. Awww, they ate all my roses while they flopped here in my lane. Isn’t that charming?

Who’d a thunk it, I actually GO to the telephone company to pay my phone bill and request services. No more waiting on long phone-trees for me, boy! I get to stand in a real line and talk to a real person and hand them real pesos. Isn’t this cool! And the electric company, they just toss the bill over the gate into the yard! How cool is that! I just love it here. Wait ‘till I tell them back home how I get my electric bill!

Quaint was another word I used a lot, oh yeah, and picturesque. Horses and cows grazing on the lush tall grasses alongside the carretera, how smart, I thought, free food for their livestock and cut back on the fire danger too. This old fashioned way is certainly the way to go.

One day while cruising the carretera into San Juan Cosala I spied an ancient man, dark leathery skin looking like a raisin, emerging from a mountain trail with a clutch of burros. Each burro had perfectly cut and stacked lengths of dry branches piled high as they headed to the restaurants on the lakeshore to supply the grills with firewood for the day. What a sight to behold. I pulled my car over and leaned back and thought about what it would be like to be him. How long has he done this, how old was he, what was his house like, what about his family, where did he live, how many pesos did he earn hauling wood. . .then I heard a funny musical sound. The old man yanked the burro train to a halt, reached into his pants pocket, pulled out a cell phone, and took his call. Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?

Yesterday I witnessed an astounding war of wills taking place outside of San Antonio Tlayacapan, when a young Mexican man on a motor scooter (good thing he didn’t have a Harley) was leading a walleyed horse on a short rope who was saying very clearly “I ain’t going anywhere with you on that scooter thang!” I successfully bet on the horse.

When it comes to driving in Mexico, rule number one: There are no rules. Well, yes there are, but traffic laws in Mexico are more of a suggestion than a mandate. You will see every rule of the road or driving law broken within the distance of 10 kilometers. Expect. . . passing on the right, passing on the left, right hand turns with left blinker on, left blinker on accompanied by rigorous arm waving informing you that the coast is clear to pass, no blinker (much more common), no brake lights, no headlights, large trucks unable exceed 25 miles per hour, ATVs driven by children 10 years of age with entire families piled atop, police vehicles with an entire platoon straddling the sides of a pickup truck, 2 lane highways that are spontaneously turned into 6 lanes as needed, large flat bed trucks with rails and entire pueblo populations standing in the back windblown and happy. . .and absolutely everything else in between. Rule of thumb? EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED AND BE PREPARED!

Topes. . .the Mexican equivilent of stop signs and waaaaay more effective. In the state of Jalisco there are over 60,000 topes. While normally they are nothing more than speed bumps, here they are more like piles of horizontal cement, peaked at the top, crossing the highway with no attempt to make them smooth or or the least bit comfortable to negotiate. In fact, quite the opposite is true. They are bone jarring, teeth crunching, bolt loosening, axle breaking memories if you miss the warning and take them at anything over 2 mph. As said, they are highly effective!

Sad but true. Drinking and driving is the cause of a high incidence of motor vehicle crashes, coupled with the complete lack of seatbelt use, resulting in extremely high mortality rates for collisions and grisley scenes for paramedics. While it true there are existing seat belt laws, they are not enforced. To enforce them would mean that the poor people who rely on the aforementioned flatbed trucks with entire pueblos balancing shoulder to shoulder in the back would never get to go anywhere. Some degree of logic in that.

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