Driving in Mexico (cruising?)

To maneje or not to maneje, yeah, that’s the question.

Driving in Mexico is like a prolonged  frenetic  game of whack-a-mole.

You dodge a batche (pothole),   cruise;

Slow to a crawl for a tope, bump-bump,   cruise;

Wait in line at an intersection of two smallish streets as horns blare ’cause a combi driver stopped ½-wayish through the narrow intersection to  let out passengers,   blocking traffic in   all directions,   toot horn,   cruise;

The light ahead just started flashing green – speed-up to run through it on yellow,    cruise;

Slam on the breaks because the driver in the left lane has careened across in front of you over 3 lanes of traffic, because they spotted something they just had-to-have over on the right,  or they realized: “It’s Tia Candy’s birthday, and I must buy her a present“,   NOT cruise….

Careen over into the left lane, because a combi just came to a sudden stop right in front o you, just to squeeze in just one more passajero,     cruise;

Suddenly slow down because the bus alongside you aimlessly began merging on top of you, as if your car is invisible,  toot horn,      cruise;

(note to self: avoid driving alongside buses that have stem-to-stern scrape marks)


Watch the bus clip the mirrors off of 3 parked car as you both  putz along;

Attempt to pass the bus,  getting close to cruisin’;

Screech to a halt because the old lady in front of you stops during the flashing green,   wait;

You left a ½-car length of space between your car and the old lady, and a 50-something passive-aggressive guy who’s frustrated because the women around him have been cutting into his power-base (proving to him that he gets none of the respect his father and grandfather got) so this guy just pulls in enough to cut you off:     …wait for him to finish cutting you off,    cruise;

Blam-blam,    you’ve just driven through a negative tope that wasn’t there yesterday, because somebody wanted to run some utility line across the street, and they dug a mini-ditch through the pavement and didn’t fill it,     cruise;

Check steering and worry whether you’ve bent a rim or cut a tire,    cruise;

Realize why the tire-guys here say to change tires before the tread is down to the wear-bar,   because all the topes,   unannounced drop-offs on highways,   and other road hazards have probably caused your treads’ belts to separate and crawl,   continue cruising while worrying;

Make a sharp left hand turn, and feel your heart sink as your front-end – passenger-side tire area – briefly makes an unrecognizable caterwauling ,    cruise (and hope it’s nothing);

Consider moving that El Niño Jesus (little plastic Jesus) that an in-law gave you    from your desk to your dashboard,     cruise;

Slow to a stop while being serenaded by a chorus of car horns, as some big delivery truck tries 4 times to back into a narrow entryway,    blocking all lanes,    mutter to yourself and change the music;

Wait 10 minutes for them to sort it out,      cruise;

Get stuck behind a line of cars being held up by some driver who’s driving slowly,  talking on the phone – mind a thousand miles away – gesturing and arguing with his wife / mistress / girlfriend,     mutter and wait for a chance to go around him,     cruise;

Think everything is going well,   ’cause this time you’ve spotted that bus  a block ahead  that’s stopping to pick up a bunch of uniformed school girls,   and  you’re  in the through-lane – until some Jetta screams by on your right, playing a Mexican version of “chicken” where he/she knows you’ll back-off just-in-time for them to diagonally fly-through the ever-narrowing gap between your fender and the bus’s bumper,    scowl     &  cruise;

Watch the Jetta cut off 4 more drivers in succession over the next 2 blocks as he continues his slalom run,    take a deep breath   &   sigh;

Realize that you just missed your turn-off to the left and that you’ll have to drive another 10 blocks because this section of road has a mile of median with no crossovers,   but at least     you’re cruisin;

Slow to a stop and wait for the 7 cars in front of you to enter the glorieta;

Wait some more…

Realize that the woman at the head of your line got her license before the Revolution, and she refuses to enter the glorieta until there are no cars for 100 meters out;

Join the horn section –  toot-toot;

Wave off the earnest-looking “volunteers” in matching tee-shirts with the can decorated with fotocopias of kids on drugs – hmmm that finger-wave thing really does work,  continue waiting;

Finally take advantage of a clear break in traffic on your right, cut across 2 lanes of traffic to finally get to the glorieta,   as a giant HUMMER flies up from a block away, flashing his headlights,  horns blaring;

Cruise through the glorieta to complete your U-turn;

Cruise back ½ mile to your turn, while dodging a tricyclete loaded with a new full bedroom suite piled-high, and hesitating briefly  for the peotones who are sauntering across the street, grandma,  mom,   straggling kids  and  teen-mom (?) with toddler-in-tow;

Swing around the corner and pray,   pray that you just haven’t turned onto a one-way street, ’cause it’s too narrow for two cars to pass,   and ALL the parked cars on the block are ALL facing you;

Proceed cautiously down the street and make eye contact with guys hanging out at the tienda to see if they look alarmed   or   if they start waving their arms, gesturing & jabbering;

Wonder why these guys aren’t at work, ’cause they’re middle aged, and it’s only 10:00 AM;

Look 2 blocks ahead and see a STOP sign facing you,  grin and exhale  – stop signs can be a good thing… cruise;

Scan all around for something marking the cross-street number, cause the sun-bleached street signs offer not even a whisper of help;

Slam into a manhole-cover negative round tope because they repaved the street with so many layers of “cold-patch” that the manhole cover is now 4 inches below street level;

Cautiously  cruise and listen for new front-end squeaks;

Drive several blocks till you find a less-bleached sign that faintly looks like Calle 21;

Realize that you needed Calle 15, three blocks back in the section with no signs,   cruise;

Turn left onto a one way while ignoring the caterwauling front right wheel assembly.   cruise;

Pray that you can just loop back around to your original destination,   (where is plastic-Jesus when you need ‘im?)  cruise;

Turn left again 3 blocks later because of the pairs of one-way steets (darn Col. Garcia Gineres – hey, grin, because at least the little lettering on each street sign say you’re in the right colonia);

Ignore pedestrian stares at your caterwauling car;

Slow to a crawl as you realize that your “return” street has dead-ended into the outer wall (barera) into some family’s old abandoned Quinta, (a fifth hectare of property in the middle of the city), replete with sagging gates, waist-high weeded jardin and a decaying mansion), negotiate your way 5 blocks around the decaying one-time-dream;

Pray that your friend gave you the right cross street addresses, as you attempt to return to the original street you were on;

Slow down and wait for some scabby dog who-owns-that-street   struggles to haul himself to his feet and shuffle away,      cruise;

Slam across a small but incredibly-rough  totally-unmarked  paint-worn-off -5-years-ago Dragon’s-Teeth tope (Dientes de Dragon),   mutter, and   proceed to your cross street;

small tope that is nasty enough to stop a taxi cruising for fares

Turn onto your cross street and return to the street you were originally on;

Turn left onto your original street, accompanied by the now fully matured Cater-Waul Symphony;

Start scanning buildings in the next 2 blocks  for that one-of-a-kind business   that has your locally one-of-a-kind item (an item that can be found in 5 different stores within 2 miles of your home back North of the Border);

Stop and ask directions from a young girl behind the Tienda counter;

Groan inwardly, as she looks blank, pauses for several lifetimes,  turns and chats with the girl nearby,  and then tells you that there is  no  store like that nearby;

Notice a kind-looking  well-dressed  middle-aged guy who’s picking up a cold Coke   who gently walks up and quietly tells you: “Caballero, , the  negocio you are looking for is back in the previous block, in the house with the elegant hiero-artisano ;

Get back into your car, circle around the blocks triumphantly, (using right turns this time);

Return to that now-too-familiar original street for a third time and look for the business’s signage… and the hiero artistico,   but there are no signs on any house on the block;

Pull over and park at the end of the block in the blistering sun;

Check your passenger front tire and then the wheel assembly;

Note the fresh rubbed-spot on the motor-side of the plastic inner fender-skirt – ’cause it’s been whacked out-of-place;

Using your makeshift rubber hammer (aka fist) pop the inner fender-skirt  back into place;

Give the skirt a firm shake to be sure that it won’t just pop-out again with the next tope,  feel very self-satisfied;

Walk back down the block,   find nothing but houses with a few with open darkened doorways  and  people sitting quietly, praying for a breeze;

Walk back towards your car,  and on an impulse   poke your head into one doorway where the people look more awake;

Ask the blank-faced men in their well-worn rockers exactly where the business is;

Wait for one of the old men to hold up his hand, rise,  and slowly disappear back into the cool darkness of their colonial home;

See a slightly perturbed middle-aged woman emerging from the darkness,  wiping water & food residues from her hands onto a cloth as she approaches;

Realize from your crude Spanish that: She’s explaining that the business is just 2 doors down; it has no sign because “everyone” knows it’s there; and it’s the green one that you ignored because there were no signs of life there;

Realize that you’ve driven past it three times and walked past it twice;

Walk back to the “shop” (as your new acquaintances watch your every move from their doorways);

Smile a “Thank you” to them, nod & wave, as they nod and smile to acknowledge that you’ve found the place;

Look for a dirt-stained spot on the wall…

Push the dirtiest bit in middle

~ listen for a distant doorbell ~

Note that the iron-work protectores have unusual but subtle ornamentation with leaves, a little deer, and 2 pheasants;

Ring the door bell;

Wait. . . ,   listen carefully,    wait. . . ,   inhale . . . ,    wait . . . ;

Ring bell again (as your new-found acquaintances hide soft laughter from covered mouths);

Note a  well-worn   small   dingy  hand-cut   white card-stock  note, hung from a small nail for the 1,000’th time,  with a hand-printed pencil scrawl that says:

Back at 4:00:
Special thanks for classic car fotos from: bbc.uk, it.stlawu.edu, jansochor.com, gallery.photographyreview.com, Tommy Images.com, cars-pictures-cars.net, & travelweekly.co.uk for the terrific fotos & much credit to resourceful Cubanos for keepin’ ’em runnin’ ! – the Merida shots are mine.
*                     *                       *                      *

Feel free to copy with proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry

Read-on MacDuff . . .

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9 Responses to Driving in Mexico (cruising?)

  1. Pingback: Driving in Mexico (cruising?) | Surviving Yucatan

  2. Pingback: Nope, It’s Not Another Blog on “My Life in Mexico” | Surviving Yucatan

  3. kwallek says:

    I sure know what your talking about. I spent the last two months touring Guatemala, the small towns were the worst, finding the right road out of town and getting past the markets that were set-up in the middle of the road to name a few of the hazards to my sanity. And cows walking down the highway like it was a normal pasture, the buzzards need to eat to. Landslides, washouts, speed bumps in the middle of nowhere keep one on their toes and 2000 foot drops off the side of the road keep those toes clenched tight. I like the rule that the person going up hill has the right of way. Good breaks are important in Latin America.
    Glad to see you have started blogging Steve.

  4. Y-K says:

    that’s hilarious, wiz… and so SO true!

  5. yucalandia says:

    kwallek,
    “buzzards need to eat too”: That’s a keeper!

  6. Pingback: Mexico Driving: What would you do? | Surviving Yucatan

  7. Pingback: Driving in Mexico: Issues & Fun | Surviving Yucatan

  8. cherylcowen@gmail.com says:

    We just came back from a week in Merida. As the cars in front of us veered from the left hand lane across three lanes of traffic to make a right hand turn; talked on their cells while weaving over the lanes, and stopped dead in front of you to let out passengers ( I have always said turn signals must be accessories that no one buys), I kept saying “cruisin” we’re just “cruisin”. Both of us were laughing instead of saying very bad words at the offenders.

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