Trabajo en Mexico, Parte 4: Turn at the third chicken on the left andpat the goat, OK?
The year in review, I’m going to repost a few of my favorites in case you missed it!
Matthew and I were working in Cuernavaca, MX — a town about 1.5 hours from Mexico City on the other side of a tall mountain range. We didn’t get to see much of the town — the convention center was right off the highway, our hotel was right off the highway, with 15 miles separating them, and the one time we got off the highway to go somewhere other than the hotel or the convention center?
Down the rabbit hole.
Here’s what happened. Because the Policia Federales cleaned me out of dinero (money), I needed an ATM. So, what do you do when you need money and travel? Well, typically, you ask the hotel. Better still, usually, there is an ATM in the hotel, tucked out of the way. The money may be expensive, but it’s there. And, I’ve used my share of hotel ATMS.
My favorite was the one in New York City that ate my money as it gave it to me. Literally. I went to remove the money from the cash slot, and it wouldn’t give it up. The damned thing was like one of those chicks that have taken a virginity pledge — that cash was not coming out of that machine. Period. I had to take a pic of the stuck cash with my cell phone and text it to the bank machine owners. But that’s another story.
This hotel just didn’t HAVE an ATM. Nor did they exchange dollars Americano into Pesos. But, don’t worry! They said, there is an ATM off the first exit. Just to the right.
So, Matthew and I took the first exit. Except it didn’t go right, it went left. And, then, it went under the highway. And then, there were stray dogs, a few chickens, and even a goat wandering the road in front of us. There was no ATM.
There was no anything.
There was only poverty. Poverty on all sides. Crushing poverty. Houses didn’t have doors. Fabric kept out the weather.
There was only one direction we could go: forward. So we did.
A few blocks down, MIRACLE. There, like a shimmering mirage in the Sahara Desert of a PF Changs, there was an OX O. Better known as a Mexican 7/11. And, I knew, they had ATMs.
So, I went in, kicking aside a chicken and giving a goat a pat on the neck. I am not exaggerating. May god strike me down.
Past the clerk, who stared, mouth hanging open (he’d never seen an Americano). To the corner, to the magical ATM about to dispense cash directly from my account into my grubby little hand.
Card poised, I hunted for the slot. It was duct taped shut.
Sigh. Back into the rental. But how to get to the highway? I turned on the GPS and hit the recently found items — for our hotel. The road twisted, and turned, and then…TA DAH….there was the highway. Just past the third chicken on the left. Perfect.
We wrapped up the day shooting at 6 pm. We started at 9 am, and in the course of that time, we photographed about 2400 people. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. The booth was so popular the convention planners made us stop for an hour because NO ONE WAS GOING TO THE SEMINARS. They were all taking photos at our booth. Matt and I took turns, and by the time we were done….I could barely speak. My throat had closed up with a mild cold, and I felt kinda peaked. But we were done, it was hugely successful, and everyone (including me) was smiling. We left for the airport.
After the cluster of staying in the Hampton Inn downtown, I decided, perhaps, it was a better idea to crash at the Hilton right at the Benito Juarez International Airport. The hotel sat right above the United terminal — since we had an early, 9 am flight, I thought it’d be perfect.
We drove the 1.5 hours up over the mountain, following the GPS to the airport.
Now…how do I put this? Apparently, no one needs a sign to return their rental car at this airport, they just KNOW where to go. Except, stupid me, I had no idea. There are two terminals. Both are kinda like independent airports, not attached to each other — in fact — they are, literally, miles apart, with the runways separating them. Surrounding all sides of the airport? Barrio malo. Bad neighborhood.
“Which terminal?” Matthew asked. I picked one. Terminal one.
We drove through terminal one. No rental car return sign, no sign of National, no sign of anything except DO NOT STOP.
We asked a policia ….”Donde esta NATIONAL?” I held up the envelope the rental car’s paperwork was in, showing their logo. Of course, I didn’t want to talk to the POLICIA about anything, after my near trip to car jail, but … oh, hell, I’m sure it’s ok.
“NO SE.” ( I don’t know) He turned his back to me, effectively ending the conversation.
We kept driving.
We went to terminal two.
This time, Matthew pulled over and I asked a cab driver.
“Oh, es facil! A la derecha y a la isquierda y esta aqui!” (Very easy! to the right and then to the left and it’s right there!) Of course, I’m never sure if derecha is right or left, but I figured there was only one real way to go…
So, we went to the right, and then to the left, and in front of us was…
But I could just see a Hertz sign sticking up above the Pemex sign, a bit down the road. Rental car offices are almost always next to each other, so we kept going. And there, rising like a phoenix from the flames, a very dark National sign.
In fact, the entire office was dark. Not a light to be seen. My heart sank. But, standing in front of the office were three guys, all in National jackets.
I asked them what was up, and if they were open. “Oh, Si, senior! The power has just gone out, but we are open.”
With that, Matthew hugged the man. The national agent was a bit uncomfortable, but did his best to hide it.
I paid them $20 to take us to the Hilton, where we collapsed until morning.
Remember, the Hilton was right above the United terminal. What could happen? I set the alarm for 6 am, for our 9 am flight. And fell into an untroubled, NyQuil induced sleep.
Little did I know my adventure had just begun.
Mas manana! (More tomorrow!)