Friday, January 27, 2017

Driving in Mexico. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your... license plate?

Like most adventures in Mexico, yesterdays began with something a little humorous. I had arranged to borrow a friend’s car for the day to take some visitors to the nearby (about 50 minutes) town of Mineral de Pozos. This is a small colonial mining town that we have fallen in love with and are actually in the process of buying a house. More on that soon!  At any rate, the evening before I was supposed to pick up the car from the garage where it is stored, he called to let me know there was a slight problem. 

As we had found out earlier from our observations, when you get a parking ticket in San Miguel, the local traffic police remove your front license plate. This is pretty clever. It insures that you will pay your parking fines and get your license plate back as it is obvious that a car without a front plate has an unpaid fine! Driving around without a plate makes you a target for further harassment and is not recommended. It seems my friend had paid his fine and retrieved his plate, but had neglected to install it, so we had arranged to pick up the plate prior to leaving town.

Through the shop
The only catch was our friend was leaving town before we could come by, and we needed to get with his maid to pick it up. Simple enough it would seem, except in order to get to his apartment, one must go through a small curio shop that caters to tourists, but does not open until after we wanted to leave. “No problema” he exclaimed! “There is a door bell switch on the window frame of the first floor window directly under my balcony. Ring the bell and my maid will get the plate down to you. “Perfecto” I replied and finished planning for the day ahead.

The next morning was a beautiful day, and we met our traveling companions for breakfast at one of our local haunts. After a delightful and leisurely breakfast, we wandered down the cobblestone streets to my friends’ humble abode.

The switch
I found the switch for the bell crudely wired to the frame of the window and gave it a push. Very shortly the balcony door  opened and out popped a smiling Mexican woman clutching a small basket attached to a rope.

She quickly lowered this over the edge and in just a few moments I had retrieved the front license from the basket, given a big smile and a gracias to the helpful maid, and was headed off to the garage.

Luckily, I had remembered to bring a screwdriver, and was able to throw the front plate back on the car. I was just a little nervous, as this was not only the first time I had driven a car in five months, it was the first time I had driven in Mexico in many, many years and driving in Mexico can be a bit like recreating the Speeder Bike Chase in Star Wars. 

The roads can be narrow and rough, the traffic moves at a variety of speeds, farm animals appear out of nowhere, the Mexican speed bumps or “topes” seem to pop out of the pavement without warning and threaten to brutally tear the suspension out from under your car, turn signals are used as a warning for seemingly unrelated behavior, and passing is both a sport and a national pastime! Vigilance is a must at all times.  Somehow I managed to settle in to the drive, enjoy the scenery, and arrive safely at our destination without incurring the notice of the Policía!

Next up…Our new home in Mineral de Pozos!

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