In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.” What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given someone else that you’ve failed to follow yourself?
I’ve had several friends who have moved to Mexico after I did, and to them all, I offered this sage advice: “If you want to live in Mexico, don’t expect it to be the same as living in the states and don’t expect it to change just because you want it to. We all move here for the charm and the fact that it is laid back and less concerned with running everyone’s lives, but you also need to realize that the reason this is so is often a matter of disorganization and inefficiency. Mexico is a wonderful place, but if you are expecting practicality, reason and expediency, move to Germany instead. If someone had given me this advice before I fell in love with Mexico and let my husband talk me into buying a house here—would I have offered more resistance? Probably not. Herein, I offer than well-known advice: Do as I say, not as I do.
If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, you probably already know that I’ve been living in Mexico since 2001 and in that time I thought I’d encountered every illogical thing that could possibly happen, but silly me. When will I learn? A case in point. Three days ago, my doorbell rang. I called out to ask who it was and a male voice replied, “Correos de Mexico.“ The postman? In all my years here, I’d never seen one, at least on my street, let alone my house. Sure, I’d seen them buzzing around on motorcycles with their hot pink and chartreuse logos on their jackets, but it was only in the past 2 years that they’d started delivering mail to my house, and in that time, the only evidence of them I’d ever seen was a bill or two thrown over the top of my garage door—usually with tire tracks on them.
In April, I’d received a Christmas card that had been mailed from Australia on December 25; and on June 10, I’d received two more from the U.S.—six months after their posting dates! So, as you may imagine, I don’t have much confidence in the postal service in Mexico. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I threw a jacket over my nightgown and cracked my front gate door. “Identification?” the postman asked. I got my driver’s license, presented it, gave him two signatures and received in return—a speeding ticket for an infraction on April 15 of this year.
It seems that the government has decided that its a good idea to install cameras in certain vital and much-trafficked places such as the road to the airport and that I’d been caught on camera going 101 kph in an 80 kph zone. This is roughly equivalent to going 63 mph in a 50 mph zone. The resulting fine was 351 pesos, which would be halved if I paid before June 5, but increased to 500 pesos if I didn’t. I could pay at any of a number of given banks, Oxxo convenience stores or 7-11’s. So, I quickly jumped in my car and sped (oops) to my closest Oxxo, only to be told I couldn’t pay there because I hadn’t paid before June 5. But I hadn’t even received the ticket in the mail until June 23, I protested! Where was I to go now? He didn’t know. Perhaps Guadalajara? It had no further information on the bill.
I drove home in frustration and consulted the local online bulletin board. It seems a number of people had received similar tickets in the mail, all were late and they didn’t know where to pay them. Some said the municipal building in Chapala. Others said Guadalajara. The dread Guad!!! The only times I’d driven there lately, I’d gotten hopelessly lost. I mean three to six hours lost. All the improvements and all of the signs added in the past few years seem to have only added to the confusion. ( It can’t be me, can it?)
Then today, the doorbell rang again. Once more, I threw a coat on over my nightgown. (It was nearly 10 a.m., but I was snoozing late, due to the fact that I hadn’t gone to bed until 3:30 a.m.) Who was it? Correos de Mexico. This time I grabbed my i.d. before I answered the door. Sure enough, another speeding ticket!!!! It was for May 6, 2015 and unlike the other one, it had been marked as mailed on June 15—but hadn’t been delivered until today, June 26. Its due date? June 24—two days ago. Then to thicken the plot, I realized I wasn’t even in Mexico on June 15!! My house sitter had been using my car and I believe this was the day she was going to pick up her boyfriend at the airport. Of course, I railed on to the postman who looked at me blankly. Still not his problem, I gathered. He drove away. I stormed into the house, dressed in 5 minutes and took off to Chapala to try to resolve the matter.
Due to the heavy Friday traffic of Guadalajarans trying to get an early start on weekend revelries lakeside, it took me about half an hour to drive the 10 miles or so to Chapala. I then stood in line at the municipal building, having a chat with a Mexican gentleman who held documents in his hand similar to mine. Were they traffic tickets? I asked in my unique form of Spanish. Yes, they were, he answered in perfect English. Aha! A sympathetic soul, plus one who understood English!!!
I started in on my story, trying to give the short and efficient version and ending with asking if his, too, were overdue. He didn’t know, he said, they were not his. Many ex-pats smarter than me or wealthier than me or lazier than me (or all three) hire locals to do their “official” business for them: paying taxes, registering cars—and evidently, paying traffic tickets. We chatted on until finally, it was my turn at the cashier’s cage. I tried to explain my problem in Spanish. The cashier tried to explain something to me in Spanish but I didn’t quite understand. It seemed as though she was telling me what I already knew—that I needed to have paid by June 5 and June 24, respectively, to get the 50 percent discount and to be able to pay at any bank or Oxxo or 7-11 store. Yes, but I didn’t even know a ticket had been issued on those dates, I protested—and, and–.
We could have gone on in this manner for some time if a gentleman had not popped out of a nearby office and explained to me that they were aware of the problem and that two more tickets would be issued for me to pay and these could be paid at any Oxxo, 7-11 or bank. Could I rip up these tickets? Yes I could. And I wouldn’t be fined even more? No. I wouldn’t.
I am home now, sitting and speculating about the efficiency of having to issue and mail new tickets rather than just letting me pay for the old one and giving me the prompt payment discount instead of the penalty. I am also considering the probability that the new tickets will also arrive after the cutoff date for payment. Another thing to consider is the trip my house sitter took to the airport to pick me up on June 8! Is another ticket having a little tour around Mexico before reaching its intended place of harassment? Will all three arrive at once? Will the postman know me well enough not to demand identification?
This long story is meant to illustrate two things. #1. That societies not based on efficiency, timeliness and logical process should not really institute a traffic fine system such as this. I don’t believe I need to discuss this further. #2. That if you have found it incredibly frustrating just to read about this little go-around, then Mexico is probably not for you. Sure, come to the beach for a week and sip pina coladas and margaritas. Go parasailing. Eat tacos. But, don’t drink the water and don’t actually move here unless you have the patience of a saint, the sense of humor of a late night political commentator and better Spanish than I do!!!