Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
After spending an entire day running errands, I arrived home to find my street closed, and it was all ripped up. No notice and no parking for two blocks. Schlepping home a car full of groceries and packages was no fun.
It was then it occurred to me, the only advanced notice on street closures we’ve ever received is the orange cone, the yellow police tape, or the car parked across the road. That is closely followed by: Now what? My least favorite is when I am half way up the block, and then I am stopped. But there are two cars behind me, and the car in front of me is reversing. Yikes! Stop!! Someone usually gets out of the front vehicle to demonstrate that the line must all go in reverse. And slowly, we back up until we can turn and go another direction.
Driving is always a challenge in Mexico. Tonight while driving home in the dark, I saw a “quad” driving the wrong way on a one way, with no headlights. He was headed right for me. I flashed my lights and shook my head at the driver—wait! Was he really wearing a police uniform?
It seems that many signs here are mostly suggestions. The stop signs on our main street are rarely observed. In fact, I can get honked at if I do stop at those signs. And let us not forget the stoplights. I hate being first at a stoplight. I feel like I am at the starting line of the Indy 500. Before the light turns green, a driver in a car waiting six cars behind me is already blasting his horn.
I’ve found that to drive in Mexico is to always be on the alert for anything that can happen. Other traffic, pedestrians, animals, road kill, and things that have fallen out of vehicles all make driving a challenge.
The best part about driving at Lakeside, however, is that even though there are long lines of traffic, especially during the high season, the drivers are kind enough to allow you to make your turn, or get out of your parking space. In Minnesota, you could wait all day for someone to let you turn or merge.
I’ve had one accident here and a few flat tires. I had AAA in the USA, and I have had flat tires, and I have sat at the side of the road for hours waiting for help. In Mexico, I have never even waited five minutes. At the accident, I had all kinds of help. I had a flat tire in Guadalajara it was repaired by someone across the street. In Chapala, I had the embarrassment of having a flat, and finding out my spare was also flat. The young man who stopped to help me, said “No problem, I know a guy two blocks from here.” Within minutes, I had my two tires repaired and was on my way.
Once a friend drove her van down our street and her front tire dropped into a hole. The bumper was on the ground. Lucky for her, there were street crews working at the end of the street, they saw the problem, and ran to help. More collected as they ran up the street, and soon there were enough men to gather around the car and lift it up out of the hole, and down the street a bit.
The trick to driving here is simply to be as courteous as possible, and never fear. If there is a problem, there will be someone to help!
Column: Welcome to Mexico
Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. She is a graduate of Moorhead State University, Minnesota and graduated Cum Laude with a BA degree in Radio, Television and Film. At 23 she was hired at multi-national media corporation, where she worked 10 years as their Director for Operations and Finance. She then ran her own business consulting company. She has won multiple community service awards. Writing has been a passion of Victoria’s since Junior High. She has been active in the writing and publishing business for over 40 years and has been a columnist for the Ojo del Lago since 2008.