Trabajo en Mexico, Parte 3: CAR JAIL
We landed at 9:30 pm on Wednesday night into the mayhem that is Bonito Juarez Aeropuerta International — Mexico City’s International Airport. And, I was totally disappointed.
I’d heard horror stories. I’d been told this airport — the third largest in North America and 5th largest in Todo El Mundo (all the world), was a cluster. Even Stan, my Freeman contact, and a well seasoned traveller, had trouble at this airport with unmarked doors, strange passages, and portals that dump you on the wrong side of security. Upon landing, palms sweaty, I discovered…
Nothing. Not even a line at customs. They didn’t so much as poke my bags and question the camera equipment. Geesh, I thought, how disappointing. Little did I know: it was the calm before the storm.
We hit the National counter, then on to the lot to get our rental car. From there, Matthew and I followed the iPhone’s GPS directions to the Hampton Inn, historic area, downtown.
Matt and I pulled from the rental car lot, into another world.
Just a few blocks, and laundry was strung across the road, from one building to the next. Chickens — yes, the live kind, clucked and ran in front of our car. Working girls lounged in door ways. And open air cantinas cooked up tacos and street burritos, with plastic chairs spilling out into the city road and nearly blocking our path. But we drove on, the three miles to Hampton Inn taking nearly 20 minutes.
We fell into bed, in an old historic hotel, corner room, with the city streets rolled up around us. Nothing was happening. All the storefronts were covered with metal doors, and even the restaurants and clubs were locked down for the night. It was quiet, and spooky.
In the morning, all that changed. The streets came alive, with a cop directing traffic right under our window. And before us, people whirling around, was the Mexican version of New York City.
We checked out of the Hampton Inn, to drive the 1.5 hours to Cuernavaca, where the event was being held. Cuernavaca is on the other side of a mountain range from Mexico City, and, I was told by Stan, is the “Beverly Hills” of the area. Ehhh-hem. Not quite.
But first we had to get there. And for those of you who haven’t been to Mexico City, it is HUGE.
Like LA huge, except huger. Like NYC huge except huger. And traffic? Cars flew down the road, plowing through pot holes and ignoring the police — Policia Federales — that were everywhere. Neighborhoods in total chaos. And, pollution hung in the air from all the Diesel engines. In fact, the last time I was that choked up by pollution was in Cairo.
But whatever. We got out the iPhone, turned on Google Maps, and followed the red line.
Exactly 2 blocks. Then we hit a stop light, and a Policia Federales tapping on my window.
What followed I can only describe as causing me to nearly wet my pants. Now for those of you who read this blog, you know I am not…
shy. Or afraid of travel. But this was scary.
First off, the entire conversation with the Policia was in Spanish. My Spanish I call “pig Spanish” because I have a difficult time. And arguing with a police officer completely in Spanish? Aye Caramba!
The bottom line was: ALLEGEDLY my iPhone had taken us down a street that was supposed to be “transit vehicles only.” Of course, there was no sign to this effect…and after going back and fourth with the young female police officer, I couldn’t get anywhere. All I could understand was I was getting a ticket, and I had to go somewhere to get the ticket, that somewhere was not here, and was someplace far away, and if I didn’t go and get the ticket, and pay the ticket, I would be sorry. Of course, I was due to be at Pemex, had no time to locate the ticket place in the huge city of Mexico, and had no intentions of doing anything except going to my shoot.
I couldn’t quite understand WTF the young police officer was trying to communicate (while the big, older police officer with folded arms looked quietly on). Finally, in desperation, Matthew got out of the car…
(Big scary male police officer screams at me in Spanish for him to stay in the car…No comprende, Senior, Lo Siento). ( I am sorry, Sir, I don’t understand)….
And Matthew screams, “DOES ANYBODY SPEAK ENGLISH WHO CAN HELP US? ANYBODY?”
Everyone (meaning the people on the streets) cupped their hands over their eyes and walked straight ahead, pretending not to see us. Except one guy. He came over and asked how he could help. There was a halo directly above his head and he was dressed exactly like Jesus, white robes and all. Well, no, not really. He was in a business suit. But I did a double take, I did see a halo.
I quickly explained, and he turned and spoke rapid spanish to the young cop. They got into a heated discussion, at which point my good samaritan turned toward me and said, “I don’t quite know how to put this, they want to put your car in car jail.”
I groaned inwardly. NO ES POSSIBLE. NECESSITO VENGO A MI TRABAJO CON PEMEX Y NO ES POSSIBLE A CAR JAIL. NO! NO! NO! I SAID (rather calmly I thought).
Do I need to even translate my pig spanish? I don’t think so.
The Good Samaritan and the cop argued some more. The Good Samaritan said to me, “you can pay the fine now for $100 (American) and go on your way. They wanted $300 but I got them down.”
I paid the fine for $100 (American), the young cop handed me back my Delaware license; I got the fuck out of there. This entire process dragged on for 45 minutes.
Now, I’d tried to make this offer early on, before the Good Samaritan, directly to the cop. I’m no fool. I know how this game works. I thought I’d gotten my point across, but then I thought I hadn’t. I was mistaken. What I didn’t understand was the process — I had to go through their threats before I could make the offer to pay the (cop) fine. It wasn’t something you can do right off the bat — which is how my ADHD works. You have to move the car, go around the corner, get away from other eyes, then make the offer. Silly me. I assumed you could bribe them, then be on your way. No muss, no fuss. No. That’s not the process. The process is to get threatened, argue, bargain, argue more, get threatened more, then go around corner, pay bribe — I mean ticket– and go. There is no rushing the process. Period.
And, on my phone is a translator ap. I love it, it works really well. Except with Policia Federales, I suspect there is some fine print, somewhere, that says it doesn’t work with Policia Federales. Here’s a snippet.
I said, “I owe money for the citation, right?” (this was a lead up to “can I just pay you the fine?”)
(“Le debo dinero para la citacion, correcto?”)
And her reply, through the translator? “Nice to round horts died interests.”
And here’s another translation from the young cop, “Want to have some Icelandic krona Twitter so you do not pass your vehicle impound.”
I have two thoughts. The first, maybe she was fucking with me? Why are my translations right and hers gibberish? Or, more likely: translator ap and city street noise, not good. You want your heart to pound? It’s read “vehicle impound” in any sentence muttered from a cop in any language, no matter how much gibberish is in between. Car jail sounds so much better.
We reached Cuernavaca without incident. Though, upon returning to la Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City) on Saturday evening, we — I — had another run in with Mexican authorities that nearly sent me to people jail. But that’s a story for another day.
Necessito dormir ahora. Now, I need sleep.
By the way, it totally slipped my mind to tell National Rental Car about this incident. It just didn’t seem pertinent. My bad.