Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bienvenidos a Mexico!

I am officially indoctrinated (is that even a word) into the world of Mexico. This morning, Keith and I were driving to Mexico City, we got pulled over, and I bribed a cop. Yeah, can you believe it? I've heard tons of stories, but never really expected it to happen.

Let me 'splain. We all know that the air in Mexico City is thick as pea soup because there are a bazillion people, and hence a bazillion cars, who live there. They have a law that states unless your vehicle has passed emissions tests and has a sticker, you cannot drive in the Federal District (Mexico City and surrounding areas) one day a week. Your day of "non circulation" is determined by the last number of your license plate.

My license plate ends in a 3. Plates that end in 3 or 4 cannot drive on Wednesdays.

Now, I was well aware of this law, because its clearly written in many books about Mexico. What I didn't know is that it isn't just for Mexico City residents, its for ALL cars, regardless of origen. Thats why I got pulled over.

OK, so, let me state that I get nervous when I get pulled over by a US cop - so when I realized he was pulling me over (by pointed and beeping his horn - no lights, whcih I thought was wierd) my belly dropped. A few things have gone wrong so far at this point - I had to drive because Keith was too tired, I didn't have much money (about $150 pesos), I didn't realize that I was on EMPTY until we were half way on our way, so I decided to take the Libre road (the free scary get kidnapped but maybe there are more gas stations road). So on top of all this now I'm getting pulled over.

Now, most people in Mexico who are doing thier best to thwart corruption say that if you get pulled over, tell the cop to give you the ticket for your infraction and be on your way. I tried to do that, because I want to be an honest person and help do the right thing. But, I thought he was telling me that he had to take my car for the day if he gave me a ticket, and that it would cost $1680 to get out!!! Apparantly the "no circulation" laws are so stringent, that if you are caught driving on the wrong day, they want to make sure you never make that mistake again!

He was never intimidating, or mean - on the contrary he was very kind. But, I didn't want him to take my car!!! I mean, we're halfway between Toluca and Mexico City, no one was answering thier phones, so what the heck are we supposed to do in a not so nice area of D.F. until the next day??????

I ended up getting ahold of my re-lo consultant Claudia, and she was able to talk to him and me to make sure I understood correctly what the sam heck was going on. She tried to get him to let me go, but to no avail. I was crying and begging and pleading - I asked for him to take my 100 pesos, and we would turn around and go straight back to Toluca. He said it was not a good deal because the ticket was so much more......but apparantly my tears got the best of him. When he came back to the car, he said he would take the 100 pesos (he handed me his book, I put the money inside and handed it back) and we were to turn right around, go to the gas station and head home. And he said to not cry anymore.

I really did want to do the right thing. But under the circumstances, I just wanted to get back to Toluca and be far far away from Mexico City, and paying him was the quickest and most effecient way of doing it. I was really scared. It was definitely a situation that I would not have ever experienced in the US, thast for sure. After it was all said and done, I felt pretty dirty, bribing a cop. But after I explained the situation to my co-workers, they all said they would have done the same thing.......

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