Thursday, January 30, 2014

P as in Privacy

Don Cuevas, exposed in the men's room, Restaurant Zandunga, Oaxaca

Below are a few of my observations, acquired over time in Mexico, of the role privacy plays or fails to play in public restrooms in various locals, such as bus stations. If you are sensitive or easily offended, I suggest that you go read another blog. This one will lay it out the way I see it. If you are ready, Read On>>

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Fickle Finger Strikes and Moves On

I occasionally read about scams played on tourists, but until recently had personally avoided and escaped the shame and distress. About two weeks ago we were successfully scammed by a taxi driver.

Toward the end of our first week in Oaxaca, we hailed a cab passing in front of our hotel, an older vehicle in poorer condition, driven by an older man.

Usually, I prefer to sit in the front passenger seat, but didn't do so this time because there was a small tool chest occupying that space. I got in the back with my wife. It was uncomfortable, as the front passenger seat back was inclined rearward and the seat as far back as it could go. The taxista got out and did something in the front passenger side, which didn't relieve the crowding in the rear. He indicated to me to open the rear right door. At that moment, he grimaced and held up his left hand to show that he'd caught his finger in the door. (I was puzzled how that could happen when opening the door, but...)

Despite this apparently severe, sickening injury, he still wanted to take us to our destination. We were disheartened and didn't want to continue. He told us not to worry, it was an accident, "no pasa nada." During the ride he made no sounds of pain. His finger truly looked broken, although the skin was unbroken and there was no blood.

He put either his radio mike or cell phone between his left shoulder and chin and talked at length with someone, about where we were going, the finger accident and arranging treatment at "una clínica particular." —a private clinic—

He didn't seem to have very good knowledge of some of even the major streets. I had to direct him. (Could it be that he wasn't a taxi diver at all?)

When we arrived at our destination, he was very careful to pull over and courteously directed us to exit to the left in order not to be hit by oncoming vehicles!

When we started to pay him the fare, $40 pesos, he asked for $3000 pesos "para la curacíon". Up to this point, we believed that it was a real and very distressing accident, Now doubts entered. We told him that we don't carry that much money, but we gave him $500 pesos*, which he took, looked thoughtful, nodded and drove off.

*Some of you may ask "Why would you pay him?" Because we just wanted to get clear from the psychological and physical distress we were having.

We crossed the street and entered the restaurant in a truly dejected mood. We weren't sure if it was a real injury, or a scam to get money from gullible tourists like us. We now speculate that he already had an old finger injury and was using it to get extra income, but we can't say for sure. In either case, it was really upsetting for us and possibly very painful for the taxista.

In retrospect, we conclude that we were scammed for sure. The driver is awarded the Fickle Finger of Fate for his subtle, devious psychological ploy.

Last Sunday Morning In Barrio Jalatlaco, Oaxaca

Barbacoa Sunday mornings at the corner of this wall outside of Casa Arnel
It's been said that there are No Stupid Questions, but what happened Sunday morning puts the lie to that cliché.
Note that no one is identified by name or description.

I was seated at the Sundays only, family operated barbacoa stand on the corner of Calle Aldama across from Hotel Casa Arnel, where we'd spent the previous two nights.

A couple of New York women stopped and asked me some questions. One women was considerably older and seemed to have acute failure of common sense. The younger (50's?) was sharper, yet even she nearly drove me into a surreal state of mind.

I'm sorry that I can't perfectly reconstruct the dialogue, but here are a few of the high(?)lights. Try to imagine their frequent interruptions to my answers as I tried to answer their questions.

NYW: "Is the meat hot?
DC—I took this to mean "is it spicy?". I asked the cocinera if it was picante. "No"
DC: No, it's not. But if you put these salsas and chiles on it, it's hot."
Older NYW: "What I meant was, is it spicy?"
Younger NYW: "That's what he means. 'Picante' is 'hot'.

DC to self: ¿¿¿WTF???

Not "hot"
NYW: "How do you get to the airport?"
DC: "I'd take a taxi."
NYW: "How did you get here?"
DC: "On the bus."
NYW: "Oh! There are buses?? How many? Where do they go?"
DC: "There are many. They go many places. We will leave for Mexico City in an hour or so. They have a website."
NYW: "Oh. What's it called?"
DC: ""
NYW: —writes it down with some difficulty and coaching by me.
DC: "The ADO website can be difficult to use. It's much simpler to just go to the station, which, by the way, is only 7 blocks up this street."
NYW: peers up street.. "Where?"
DC: To the end of this street, take a left, about 2 blocks, you can't miss it."
NYW: Are the buses safe? I mean, it goes on a road, doesn't it?"
DC: ~speechless~

There was more of this sort of inanity, and when I got away, I felt very sad for my native land and the city of my birth.

To their credit, they did remark on the charm of Barrio Jalatlaco, but I had to wonder how they managed to find it. I wonder if they found their way out.