Sunday, December 29, 2013

El Fin de Mexico

Working backwards to the end o' Mexico.

I spent my last day in Mexico taking pictures, and wandering through markets.  I snapped pics through the narrow market of books, and wandered my way into an artisanal market.  I was snapping pics, when I stumbled on a store of Quixote statues.  I picked out a nice statue of Don Q, and bargained a little for the knight-errant.  I carried my statue back, and dropped him off at home before venturing back down to the city center.  I stopped over first at the first hostel I stayed in to do some work over beers, but I couldn’t get a solid wifi signal.  I had no better luck on top of the Cento Cultural de Espana, but finally found a place to work at another hostel café nearby.  I sat drinking cerveza and uploading pics.

As one should on the last night, I had a late one in Mexico City.  After having a dinner of slightly upscale tacos (arrechera skirt steak, 20 pesos)­ I met up with my friends Minseon, Cesar and Tim and we had rounds and rounds of mescal and small Victorias.  We had the obligatory late night that finished with 3am tacos.

I woke up the next morning, and muddled through the exit out.  I bade goodbye to my landlord and his family, and hopped the metro to the airport.  I had feared a crazy, packed train which I could ill-afford with all my stuff on my back, but it was thankfully not busy. 

As I switched to the yellow line to the airport, on the train a Mexican drummer and his girlfriend banged out percussive beats, declaring: we are the blood of the Aztecs; we are the blood of the Mexica; we are the blood of the eagle.  

I arrived to the airport, and hoofed all the way down to the international departures.  I waited in a snaking line to check in at the self-check in, then snake over to drop my bags.  I crossed security, which had some issues with the lance on my Don Quixote statue.  I explained over and over that it was merely Don Q, and they finally agreed that his lance was not sharp enough to do damage.  But if the Mexican security had issues, this did not auger well for our knigh-errant when he was north of the border.

I moseyed through the airport, and with about 25 minutes until boarding I headed towards my gate.  That was when the fun began. 

As I walked up to the emigration desk, I looked in the back of my passport for my Mexican emigration form.  I had received this on entry, and paid special attention to the signs that said I had to keep the form for departure or pay a $42 penalty.  I knew that I had to keep this form, so I put it in the plastic back cover of my passport where I always save the necessary forms.   Except it wasn’t there.  I had all sorts of forms I had saved from Absurdistan, but I was missing my Mexican form. 

And I had no money on me.  None.  Maybe 4 pesos, but I had spent my remaining reserve cash because I thought I was essentially done and gone.

The guy told me I would have to go to the office, which sounded far away.  I was supposed to board in twenty minutes, so I was getting a bit worried.  I asked if I could just pay the fine.  He said I could give him 1,000 pesos.  I looked at him sideways and said I thought the fine was $42 dollars. He said, oh yeah, just give me that.  I didn’t have time to fight about it with the hustler and didn’t want to get stuck in Mexico, so I ran off to find an ATM.  Except everyone kept giving me mixed messages.  There are no ATMS after security.  That seemed to be the common refrain, and I freaked a bit. I tried asking a change desk if I could take a cash advance, but that wouldn’t work either.  But they said there was an atm after gate 18.  So I ran 12 gates to gate 18, and sure enough there was a cajero

I quickly did the math and figured I owed about 550 pesos.  I took out 700 because I didn’t want to take the chance I didn’t have enough pay my way out of trouble.  Then I ran back to the desk.  The crocodile smiled big, and produced a new form for me from the desk with a stamp on it.  He had me fill out the info, then told me to slip the money into my passport and he collected my passport from the top of the desk and pocketed the fine.  Viva Mexico!

Ultimately, I probably paid an extra $10 on top of my impuesta estupeda (stupidity tax) because if I had time to spare I could have gone to the office and just paid the official amount.  But I was in a hurry to catch my flight and I had been a little thrown off by the unexpected situation, and the declarations of no ATMs that added to the stress.

Well, then I was allowed to pass on to the gate.  With about ten minutes until boarding, I got myself a tequila on the rocks to help as salve for my stupidity tax.  And then we waited and waited.  The flight was ultimately delayed probably close to 30 minutes, even though the flight gate still said on time. 

But I had a window seat in the emergency exit row, so I had plenty of space as we flew north to Chicago.  From Chicago, I passed through the new automated passport check machines.  I grabbed my bag to transfer it and packed the lance into the daypack so not to take any chances.

Nothing more eventful once I got into O’Hare.  I switched terminals, and made my way to my delayed flight, which was a help because the flight into Chicago got delayed over a landing malfunction that left us too far from the access gate.

I got back to Bethesda around midnight for a 24 hour stopover before I headed back north to Philly to apartment and cat sit for my lil sister.

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