Thursday, April 26, 2018

moving to mexico -- parking

I live in a Jane Marple world.

Just like Agatha Christie's character, who relies on analogies to her very limited life experience in the small village of St. Mary Mead to deductively solve murders, I tend to see the world through the provincial eye of a ten-year old growing up in Powers, Oregon.  And that eye serves me well in our little villages by the sea.

Take parking, as an example. For all of their associations with Spain's opening of the Pacific trade lanes, our villages are relatively new. I believe I would be hard pressed to find many structures here that are older than I am. (Of course, that may say more about my age than the youth of our villages.)

That was true of Powers, as well. It was not founded until the 1910s. When my mother's family moved there from Minnesota, it was still as new as a shiny dime.

When the town was laid out, the automobile was becoming a common accessory of life. And the town streets were platted to reflect that. Wide with plenty of parking. Even though, when I was a child, no one would have thought of driving to the grocery store. It was a quick walk. Or my mother's cousin Ken would arrange for one of his staff to deliver purchases.

I do not know when the streets of Melaque and Barra de Navidad were laid out. But whoever did it certainly did not have vehicles in mind -- for either flow or parking. They are incredibly narrow.

Of course, there were not many cars around then. Personal ownership of vehicles has only skyrocketed in the past two decades. When the SUVs of middle class tourists are added to the usual bustle, our streets have less in common with traffic flow than with the sclerotic arteries of a pizza lover.

Hank, a resident of this part of Mexico for 30 years, left a comment on our discussion of the formality of courtesy on Mexican buses (musical chairs). After agreeing that Mexico is a land of general courtesy, he realistically noted courtesy is not universal here. "Another quite noticeable lack of manners, this time by adults, are drivers stopping and blocking a street while they converse or blocking you in in a parking spot or your driveway."

He is absolutely correct. Neuva 
España is the main street through the commercial area in my neighborhood. I once remarked that it is not so much a street as a public square where cars are occasionally allowed to pass.
Even though it is the main arterial in our neighborhood, filled with delivery trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, bicycles, baby stroller, horses, and almost anything else imaginable that moves, all passing along on a road that is barely two lanes wide, people regularly feel compelled to stop their cars in the travel lane to chat or to simply double park and disappear for minutes.

But I have an even better example. One of the side streets in San Patricio faces a secondary school. Across the street is a mortuary.

The street itself is designed to be one way with parking on one side. But, drivers regularly park on the other side, as well, making it impossible for delivery trucks to pass.

The garage gates to the mortuary have long had a sign indicating that parking is never allowed. After all, death does not wait for illegal parkers.

Drivers ignored the sign. Thinking that people may not have noticed the sign on the gate, the mortuary put two signs out on the street with the international sign for no parking. And for those who might think the use of international signs is a conspiracy hatched by by the Council on for Foreign Relations, the words "NO PARKING" are clearly visible.

If the staff at the mortuary thought they had a clever solution, it was too clever by half. On the second day the signs were up, the photograph at the top of this essay is what I saw. A Volkswagen cheerfully nestled between the two signs.

The driver of that car was Mexican. I saw her two hours later as she pulled away. But the fact the sign is in English (the other is in Spanish) is evidence enough that it is not only Mexicans who have been scofflaws. I can raise my hand as being one of the violators.

Is all of this irritating? Sure, it is. And I wish it did not happen. But it happens in cities all over the world. Including that paragon of compliance, Canada.

I have the choice to let the experience get in the way of enjoying my life in Mexico or I can just let it be some much background noise.

I read an essay in National Review this week by Michael Knox Beran about what qualities truly make a man moral ("The Magnanimous Magistrates"). Beran sums up the choice I hope to always make -- but don't.

My own idea is that magnanimity grows out of an inward tranquility in its possessor, a sense of self-worth serenely unlike the more frenetic, insistent varieties you find in vain or arrogant people. It is just because the vain or arrogant man secretly doubts his value that he is so relentless in insisting upon it. The magnanimous man, on the other hand, knows what is in him, and accepts it as naturally as he accepts the sun or the moon or any obvious fact.
And congestion here is as natural as the sun. Or the moon. Or any obvious fact.

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