Saturday, February 20, 2010

i like abe

So do most of us.

But no one would confuse me with him.  After all, there is the height thing -- and all that facial hair.

Almost everyone's favorite story is the probably apocryphal tale of how he got his nickname "Honest Abe."

You know the story.  While working in a general store, he short changed a customer.  Realizing his mistake he walked a total of 6 miles to return 6 1/4 cents.

On Wednesday, I was in a rush to get ready for my afternoon flight.  One easy task was to pick up two items at the grocery store.  The walk was easy -- about a quarter mile.  The store always reminds me of the grocery stores of my youth -- lightly stocked, a bit untidy.

I gathered up my purchases and took them to the cashier -- a fellow I did not recall seeing before.  I reached for my wallet.  Nothing.  I had left it on the bed.

No problema
.  I would pay in coin.  Of course, I had just given the laundress all of my change.

The total was $26 (Mx).  I had $21 in change.

I offered to put one item back  the usual NOB solution.

He said:  Pay me later.  Well, he said it in Spanish.

I walked home and walked back immediately with the pesos.  He was a bit surprised at my sudden return.  And he would not accept an additional $5 (Mx) for his trouble.

My story does not even come close to our Honest Abe scriptural text.  But it illustrates my Mexican neighbors have relationships based on trust and honesty.

I am not naive.  I know the traits are not universal in Mexico -- nor even in Melaque.  My fellow bloggers have told tales of horrendous customer service.

But the trust factor is one reason I like Melaque.  It reminds me of how people treated one another when I was growing up in the small towns of southern Oregon.

A very good reason why I like Melaque as well as I like Abe.


Tancho said...

Your aura must have been in sync. Remember this experience so that it will even out a future one....

Jackie said...

The same kind of thing has happened to me a couple of times on Isla. There is a Cuban restaurant that I frequent. Sometimes my friends and I just go there to have their Mojitos. One night we stopped and had two 2x1 Mojitos. We got our bill and put down a $200 peso bill. The manager told us he had no change and we could pay him the next day. My friend and I went down the street aways and had dinner. When we got our change from paying that bill I counted out what we owed for the earlier Mojitos and said “this is Victor’s money”. We walked back to the Cuban restaurant and gave Victor the money plus a tip. He didn’t want to take the money and again told us we could pay him the next day. We forced the money on him and thanked him for his trust in us.
I know that would never happen here in Oregon even a store or restaurant that I may go to weekly.

Felipe said...

Steve, will you quit tossing money about like a drunken sailor! You were going to give him 5 pesos extra for "his trouble." What trouble?

The amount in this case is small, but the action is not insignficant. A Mexican would not have offered more money for "his trouble." The tossing about of cash (overtipping, whatever) is why Mexicans think we are foolish with money. And rich. And that leads us to be charged more.

Relationships here are based on trust? Hardly. If the amount in question had been 50 pesos instead of 5, you would have seen how trusting the store clerk was.

But then again, perhaps Melaque is a Mexican anomaly. I was only there once briefly.

Croft said...

We once left a load of laundry in a Mexican lavandera to be washed. When I picked it up the charge was very reasonable, under $100 pesos. As I was loading it into the car the woman came rushing out with $250 pesos in cash that I had left in a pocket. Not that much to me but a small fortune to her.

This was just before Three Kings Day and I am sure the money would have come in handy to her but her sense of pride and honesty prevailed. She did not expect a share of her findings but did accept it. This is the way it is with the vast majority of Mexican people!

Anonymous said...

i experienced the same thing over and over when i was in chacala. we didn't have a bank or atm there but i knew that if i ran out of money and really needed something, i could buy it and pay when i could.

i hope you're having nice weather in oregon. we've had several gorgeous days. finally going hiking today. starting with a short one, 5 mi. and about 1,500 ft. in el. gain. didn't think i should overdo it since i haven't hiked in so long.

enjoy your weekend!


Merida Mikey said...

Good story! Quite typical of what I have found EVERYWHERE in Mexico. And that's one of the reasons I've lived here for 16 years now!

Have a safe and pleasant journey!

Steve Cotton said...

Tancho -- I will remember it, and try to do the same for others.

Jackie -- I have had similar experiences at stores in Salem. But only where the clerk has known me for a long time. This man was a stranger to me.

Felipe -- I have had some bad experiences with people -- both Mexican and foreign -- in Mexico. Just like any place in the world. But almost all of my experiences with local merchants have a common base in trust. We are a small town. And we act as small town people. Often petty and narrow-minded, but we also have the virtues of small town people.

As for the money, if the clerk thought 5 pesos was small enough to trust I would return, I felt that making a similar offer in return was not remiss. I expected him to reject the offer, and did not press the offered pesos on him when he refused. Making it was merely an expression of my gratitude.

Crioft -- Nice story. Nice sentiment.

Teresa -- The weather in Oregon was great. Unfortunately, I spent most of it inside. There was work to do.

Merida Mikey -- I am happy to hear that the spirit is more universal than my small fishing village by the sea.