Mex2010 Blog 5 Chingados

Mex2010 Blog 5                                                         November 19, 2010

¡Chingados!

For the uninitiated, this is the Mexican term for a concept which in Spanish is represented by a 7-letter word beginning with “J” and in English by a 6-letter word beginning with “F” and sometimes followed by the word “up” or “over”. The term accurately describes, or at least indicates our emotional attitude toward, our last few days. That said, we have emerged with smiles on our faces at finally, four days after we had planned, to have settled into a hotel in downtown Monterrey in Mexico.

We’ll start with Linda’s formerly trusty Dell laptop. About ten days ago, when we are at a sufficient distance from Kingston to make the thought of a u-turn unattractive, it begins to sputter. The screen takes little siestas in the middle of reading our email. Its laziness extends to sloth in carrying out commands. “Fetch this; put that there.”  Aaalll riiighhht, iiff youuu insssiisst.” The letter “Y” begins to take a vacation in the middle of every third sentence. Solution: buy a spiffy new Samsung with a 14” screen, transfer programs and data, and, when everything is working accurately at warp speed, send the Dell to a hospice.

The BestBuy in Lufkin has the Samsung model. Linda takes it back to Maryjane’s, plugs it in, and starts transferring. At midnight Joe and I go to bed. At 3:00 Maryjane’s blinks lose their bling and she joins Joe. At 5:30 I feel Linda grump into bed next to me, saying: “Wake me at 8:00. We’re going back to BestBuy.”

We do. They check out the device. “Ah, the problem is not yours, it’s ours. The hard drive has a goblin in it that needs to be exorcised at the factory. We’d give you a new one if we had one, or you can upgrade for another obscene amount of money.”

“Hmmm.”

“Or you can take the demo model.”

“All right, the demo. But at a reduced price.”

“Mais, oui! 10% discount. Of course the demo still has store stuff on it, and needs to be set up properly. But don’t worry, we’ll do that for you. You’ll only have to pay for the set up disks. It won’t take but a couple of hours. Come back after lunch.”

We do.

“It’s taking longer than we thought. Come back after dinner.”

We do.

“This model takes 10 recovery disks, and we’re on disk 6. Which is a large one. How about first thing tomorrow morning?”

Maryjane and Joe, bless them, are gracious hosts and do not communicate any dismay with our projected departure on Sunday rather than Friday. We take them to dinner (modest). They feed us at home (lavish).

Sunday morning we pack the car. We have the computer, but not the remaining disks. We head to the BestBuy at 9 to pick them up, with plenty of time to make our brunch date (postponed from Saturday) in College Station and our dinner date (ditto) in Austin.

Sunday the store opens late.

We reschedule  the brunch to a lunch, the dinner to a Monday morning breakfast, and, at long last, turn our heads west.

Twenty-four hours later we are in Laredo, lunched and breakfasted. We plan to spend the afternoon buying our Mexico insurance and transferring programs and data before crossing the Río Grande the next day after breakfast. Everything works fine . . .

… except that it appears the programs still won’t transfer without Linda’s original program disks. Which are in Kingston.

Fly home? $$$$. Buy all new program disks? $$$$. Ask Vicky to rummage through Linda’s office stash and send the disks overnight FedEx?

We do. Vicky does, bless her. They arrive without a problem in Laredo by mid morning on Thursday, and we’re ready to enter Mexico after three long days in Laredo.

(A word about Laredo. The sleepy little border town of song and story that still lived in my imagination has become a 250,000-person metropolis with a single main street called I-35. The interstate is lined with big box outlets and fast food restaurants, punctuated with the inevitable China buffet and a couple of barbecue places. And, of course, 5,000 taco joints. The pickup truck is the chariot of choice. 50% of the license plates are Mexican. 90% of the street language, the hotel language, the restaurant and commerce language is Spanish. In fact, even though the two of us are unmistakably gringos or northern Europeans, people routinely address us in Spanish. So how to pass the time? The town has one sun-baked public golf course, which I play. Poorly. Rented clubs and I’ve never before had to hit every shot off of dirt.  Linda vets the Goodwill. We would have browsed Laredo’s bookstore, but there isn’t one, a fact that both astonishes and horrifies us. 250,000 people plus the thousands who commute every day from Nuevo Laredo, and no place to buy a book.)

Back to the second chingadera. Late Thursday morning we drive across the international bridge, excited to be entering Mexico again and equally delighted not to be in the barely-moving mile –long jam of traffic lined up to cross into the US. We circle under the bridge to the Mexican entry office to expedite our tourist visas and car permit. The visas take 3 minutes. The permit should take 5. We’re experts: we have all the paperwork, copies of all the necessary documents.

“I’m sorry, you can’t bring this car into Mexico. There’s no record of your having taken the last one out of Mexico, and you’re past the limit of time you were allowed to have it in the country. You’ll have to bring that car here.”

Oops. Evidently, according to their computer, I have criminally left Mexico without my temporarily imported Dodge Caravan.

“But we did take it out, like we always do. And we sold it to the dealer in Rhode Island when we bought the CRV.”

“But you’re not allowed to sell it, not when it’s ingresado into Mexico. There’s no record of your having turned in your sticker, your holograma.”

“Oh, dear. What can we do to resolve this?”

“The car is in your name, so you are the guilty one. I suppose you could put the CRV in your wife’s name, and she could bring it legally into Mexico. I can do that for you, but I’ll need to see the original title and your marriage certificate.”

“You’re kidding. It’s dangerous to keep the original title in the car. The title is 4000 kilometers from here in a safe. And who travels with a wedding certificate? Isn’t there some other legal way for us to do this?”

We smile pleadingly but the face is stony. The last thing we want to do is hint that we are trying to bribe him. First of all, we don’t do that. And second, there are signs all over the place warning at the unpleasant consequences of such attempts.

“Well, you could go back to Texas and change the title to your wife’s name at the Motor Vehicle  Department. Then temporarily register it in Texas. Then bring those documents back here.”

Thoughts of Victor Lazlo in Casablanca, Rube Goldberg, and the line on the international bridge north, jostle with each other to depress us.

“There’s nothing else we could do?”

“You could bring us the Dodge . . .”

We slink out, start the CRV, and join the long line on the bridge. A very long hour later we answer the customs agent’s question of “How long have you been in Mexico?” with “Fifteen minutes,” which is, of course, a lie. It was more like a half hour. We explain our dilemma, he confirms that we are in dire doodoo, and directs us to the Motor Vehicle Department.

The denouement: We find the Motor Vehicle Department and, let me tell you, it is a dream. The antithesis of the DMV offices in Rhode Island. Modern, gleamingly clean, efficient, friendly, and not at all surprised by our bizarre request for a temporary registration in Linda’s name. Seems that they do that all the time. All it takes is $27 and fifteen minutes. Lunch on the American side, and back to Mexico. Twenty minutes of paperwork there, instructions about how to clear my name with the Mexican border sentries (which, with the requisite ten or twelve documents procured back in Rhode Island, I will attempt another day), and we find ourselves on the long straight road across the desert to Monterrey.

Not chingados this time, just paperworked over.

As for the computer…. we will have to see.