The Welcome Riot
Dateline: I have absolutely no idea where I am. I know I’m in Mexico City, but beyond that, I don’t have a clue.
Okay, so now I’m in a taxi on the side or a road in Mexico City. And things are not okay. The driver, Tomas, jerks on his hair. Outside the taxi people run in all directions. Police fronted with Plexiglas shields shout and charge forward in rows. Automatic weapons diagonaled across their bodies. Men and women in regular clothes, far outnumbered by the police, are dragging canvass tarps, shaking their fists, and screaming. Booms signal smoke bombs. Sirens in every direction. Every other person is a policeman shouting into one of those hostage standoff megaphones. Orders are shouted in rapid fire Spanish. I think I recognize: “Arrested!” “Danger!” “Shoot you!” “Run!” “ Stay!” “Run!” “Dead.”
People are being handcuffed and tossed into vans. Handcuffed! Right in front of me.
I’m talking–gringa chick with bad knees in a random taxi in the middle of Mexico City (that’s a bald-faced guess) surrounded by rampaging humanity. There are many more gun-toting men in black than there are regular people.
But, no worries, Tomas would have a solution. He’d take care of me.
That’s when Tomas went off the bubble. He leans over the front seat and jumps his face withing inches of mine and tries to explain the situation. I can’t understand a word. Tomas drags his finger across his throat three times. Okay, I know enough Spanish to figure out I was in big trouble.
Now, here’s the thing with the Mexico City Airport’s zone system for hiring a taxi. Since you pay according to the zone of your destination before you leave the airport, very simply–the driver has no vested interest in his passenger. Anytime a taxi driver tells you: “I am not taking you to your hotel. I’m taking you somewhere else. I am taking you to an unknown destination.”
This is not good news anywhere in any language. When you picked up your taxi at the Benito Juárez (first Indian to be President of Mexico) International Airport– it gives your heart a little extra jump. Based on the odds, I’m thinking kidnapping.
But will my husband pay? I’d promised not to take a taxi from the airport, that I would order a car service. Which I –obviously—did not do. So, there’s that. I know. Here I’m being kidnapped and I’m anxious about my little lie. Well, little things add up in a marriage.
I can hear his eulogy now: “We are gathered here today, not all that surprised, to put to rest my wife, a woman who chose to be swept up into a mob of armed police/criminals/teachers (Yes, teachers) rather than cough up the fifty bucks that would have saved her life.” Way too many head wags saying, “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.” Then there’s the whole financial angle.
Once keyed in on the kidnapping scenario, I started adding up the IRA totals–Another wild guess. I’m always stunned anyone ever opens that sort of mail. I figure out how much ransom we can handle without selling the house and whether or not the marriage is going well enough for my special person to throw his future in the dumper– just so I can continue to be in it. Think about it. If you have doubts about your spouse’s response to a ransom demand . . . here’s my card.
Instead of kidnapping me, Tomas dumps me.
Yep. He pops the trunk, jerks out my two outrageous glowing orange tanks along with my sixty pound computer traveling office with the two extra keyboards sticking out–and orders me out of the taxi. I throw myself into begging for mercy and promising money but my Spanish wasn’t up to the task and when I started a dramatic skit pretending to pull wads of money out of my pockets, Tomas flinched as if I was trying to hand him a disease.
How much further down the loser hip traveler scale could I go? I am in the country where bribery and graft are the law and I can’t pay my way out to the next block. He barely waited long enough for a tip.
Here’s the picture.am standing in the middle of a street somewhere in Mexico City. It is raining and my pants keep falling down. On either side of me I have an enormous neon orange sidecar each 49.5 pounds so I don’t have to pay extra. I also have my rolling case stuffed with my computer–wires and keyboards and spare charger cords spilling out.
I can’t see the other side of the street because of the smoke. I gathered from the people screaming about pepper spray, that if I waited a tank would come along and in the process of blowing people away with fire hoses, the tank would clear the air. This news was supposed to help me.
Then someone else said I should run because the fire hose water would whoosh me into the countryside. I’d lose my luggage, my computer for sure. I’m not losing my computer.
It is raining. My pants keep falling down. It’s Mexico City and I have no idea where I am.
Travel Tip: Never leave on a trip wearing new stretch jeans. Those jean people take that stretch part very seriously.
Next: The Solution.