Thursday, July 19, 2018
did a minotaur just get out of that car?
The mysteries of the church often pale in comparison to the mysteries of Mexico.
The trinity is a snap to interpret; understanding the driving customs in my little village, just like comedy, is hard.
I have told you about the main commercial street through my neighborhood -- Nueva España, Mexico's married name when it was still part of the Spanish Empire. It is a street only in the most rudimentary use of that word.
Sure, it is paved and wide enough to allow parking along ts curbs and still permit two-way traffic. Vehicles then just need to be conscious of the various pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, skateboarders, baby strollers, boys chasing footballs into the street, goats, horses, and assorted dogs and cats with whom drivers share this main thoroughfare.
And if those were the only obstructions in the street, driving on Nueva España would be a pleasant, but adrenalin-driven adventure. But, there are other topes -- including real ones, at least 14 speed bumps -- on a regular day.
I do not know if it is true in the rest of Mexico, but double-parking seems to be an art form here. If you want to buy a plastic cup of agua fresca, why bother pulling two car lengths ahead into an open parking space? Turn on your flashers and stop in the street. Or to go to the paper store. Or the grocery. Or to have your hair cut.
The result is that the two-way traffic is often reduced to one lane requiring drivers to dig deep into their transferable skills bag. Now, where did I put my Theseus labyrinth map?
There are times when the vehicles are parked so close together that buses and Coke trucks back up like salmon waiting to vainly tackle Grand Coulee dam.
Earlier this week, I was driving my Mexican friend Alan to Melaque. (You remember Alan from cart of laughs. My friend who finds hilarity in foreigners displaying their national flags in Mexico.) Nueva España was humming along -- well, as well as it could hum along in its sclerotic mode.
I was just about to start my weave pattern when I saw a large pickup had already entered the maze. There were five double-parked cars that we both needed to maneuver our way around. Tennyson urged me on. "Half a league, half a league,/Half a league onward,/All in the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred."
But, because he was already on his way and the laws of physics precluded two vehicles from simultaneously occupying the same space, I pulled over to let him pass.
For some reason, that agitated Alan. He started yelling: "Go! Go! Go!"
When I pointed out I couldn't because of the pickup, he looked at me as if I had just arrived from Pakistan. "Go! Make him back up!"
By now, the pickup was out of the way, and we drove down the street. But, I was curious what had just happened.
In our own patois of Spanglish, he told me that what I had done was weak and all the people on the street now thought I was a weak man.
It did not placate him when I said I was merely showing courtesy and practicality; the other driver was there first. More importantly, giving deference to another person is a sign of personal strength, not weakness.
He was not buying it. "You were weak. You have to force people to respect you."
I have heard that last line from several young Mexican friends. One went even further in telling me that no one will respect you unless you have beaten them in a fight.
One of the weaknesses in deductive reasoning is that people tend to generalize from their own specific specifics to the general without having sufficient data to draw the conclusion. I am not going to do that.
But, as far as Alan and some of my other friends are concerned, that incident on the street has given me a template to try to understand why the occasional standoff occurs on the street when neither vehicle will yield to the other.
Of course, it does nothing to help me understand why the traffic labyrinth is created in the first place.
But that is the theme for another essay. And I just may write it if I can get past all of these cars today.