In my pre-teen years, I loved the card game Concentration.
A deck of cards was spread out on a table face down. Each player was allowed to turn over two cards in hopes of finding a pair. If there was no match, both cards were replaced on the table – face down. The idea was to remember where the cards were as they were revealed one by one. It was a great memory game. Thus – Concentration.
I often play a similar game here in Mexico – trying to match circumstances with a correlating cause. But I suspect the game is often being played without a full deck.
ATMs and shopping provide perfect examples.
In my little village of Melaque, I find it hard to spend 100 pesos (less than $10 US) in any store. A 200 peso note will send the owner’s young son into the street to get change – from other vendors, the bank, or an unwitting stranger minding his own business.
When I drive to Manzanillo on my weekly mail run, I usually stop at Walmart, Comercial Mexicana, or Soriana – often, all three. It is almost impossible to get out of each store without leaving one or two $500 peso notes behind. Change is never an issue.
The pesos I use in each place come from the same source – an ATM, whether in Manzanillo or Melaque. But I have noticed something odd.
In Melaque, the ATM spits out a pad of 500 peso notes. In Manzanillo, I get a wad of 100 and 200 peso notes. I do not need the smaller bills in Manzanillo, and I cannot use the larger bills in Melaque.
I should note that right after I get my 500 peso notes from the machine in Melaque, I march into the Banamex branch, give the cashier the 500 peso notes, and walk away with the same bills I get out of a Manzanillo machine.
I have asked the bank why we cannot cut out the middle step. If the ATM dispensed smaller bills, I would not need to come inside. The response? “But then we would not have the pleasure of these conversations.” It sounded far less condescending in Spanish.
So, I do what I often do in Mexico. I improvise. I take my Melaque notes to Manzanillo, and save my Manzanillo change for Melaque.
If the cards you want are not on the table, simply add a few of your own.