Mexican Grace is a new regular feature column inspired by the September 15th 2019 Open Circle. El Ojo is looking for anecdotes that relate the many encounters, whether initiated by expats or locals, that exemplify the special manifestations of mutual giving and receiving that define the Mexican Grace that brought us to this unique paradise and that keep us here.
By Loretta Downs
The day began as usual. After I did what I do every morning, I caught the 8:40 bus on Constitucion to the pool in Riberas where I enjoyed an energetic water aerobics class. Also, as usual, when it was over I took time to talk with the regulars and Norma the instructor before showering and dressing. It was a great way to start the week.
With my backpack on my back, I briskly walked along the bike path stopping at some of the interesting shops along the way because I had time. It was impossible not to notice that the path was getting more bicycle use than ever, making me aware to stay to the right side and not put myself in the line of a collision. At this stage of my life a fall could be damaging.
My last stop was going to be the Monday Market in San Antonio where I find professionally prepared foods. Years ago, I rented a house a few blocks away and got in the habit of going. I’m always greeted by Lulu smiling in her wheelchair and eager to share a hug. It’s a small market and easy to navigate. I planned to buy as much as I could carry, and I’ve grown beyond fond of the smoked salmon, honey, salads, and Imelda’s homemade pies offered there. I was having three friends over for dinner and intended to collect two small pies.
Her selection is ample, and that day I chose a chocolate cream and a lemon tart. Imelda carefully placed them in a secure bag while I re-balanced the now very full backpack on my shoulders. I bought some candy from Lulu, dropping more pesos than she asked in the collection box that hangs off the basket attached to her chair, shared a long hug, promised “Hasta lunes!” and turned toward the street with the bag of pies dangling from my right hand.
It was one of those exciting moments when I saw a bus coming and knew I could make it across the street and catch it if I ran. I’ve done it a million times. I dashed to the corner, paying attention to where my feet were stepping, then stopped fast to wait for traffic to make room for me.
The bus arrived and the driver, seeing me lurching forward from where I stood, stopped and waved me across out his window. The driver of the car approaching me stopped. I waved a “thank you” to her with my free hand, and took a giant leap into the street, swinging the bag of pies ahead of me and tying not to wave my right hand. Two leaps into the carretera, right in front of the car that stopped, with everyone on the full bus looking at me, I tripped and fell. I tell myself it was a glamorous fall, but I hit the ground hard, with my rump in the air. The first contact spot was my left knee, followed by my left arm, wisely bent at the elbow to avoid breaking my hand or wrist.
Then my face hit the pavement. Before I could move, the women in the first and second cars came to help me get up. The bus was still waiting, and no one was complaining about the wait, or laughing at an elderly woman who had failed to run across a street. Not one horn was honking from what had grown into a long line of cars. Not one honk. Both Mexican women driving the first two cars in line raced out to help me up and immediately and sincerely offered to take me to a doctor. I waved the bus driver on and assessed the damage. Pain emanated from here and there, but I could talk and walk. My doctor was in the opposite direction to the one the women were travelling, so I waved them on, too, and searched for a place to sit and catch my breath.
I’ve never fallen that hard before and I was lucky. My knee and elbow were scraped and hurting, and the ground took a significant patch of skin off my cheek. Thankfully my glasses weren’t broken. That fall, and its abrupt interruption and alteration of an ordinary day gave me pause. The bus driver and the women so generously wanted me to board the bus. They also were willing to not do what they had been doing in order to help a stranger who spoke their language badly.
My first fall taught me that I’m not quite as stable or strong as I once was. It also taught me how important being balanced is when traversing our challenging streets. I felt reassured that the people around me are willing to come to my aid in a crisis, a pretty good feeling.
Ultimately, the damage done was pretty minor. I was grateful. Maybe I would not have fallen as hard, had I let go of the pies but I did save them and I fell in love with Lakeside once again.