The true Mexican tourist experience

When I told Gail I was renting a car, she said to be careful.  The Mexican police are infamous for stopping tourists to collect a bribe.  She was right, sorta.

Out exploring yesterday, I was pulled over by a cop on a tiny scooter.  Since I’m driving the tiniest possible Nissan, I don’t think I look particularly touristy, but there he was.

It turns out I had run a red light, making an illegal left turn across the busiest highway in the area.  I really did it, and I deserved. to be stopped.

He said the fine is very high, 800 pesos (the symbol for peso is also $, so writing $800 would be quite confusing).  That’s about 42 dollars, which is maybe a tenth of what it would cost me to run that red light in Lafayette.

They don’t just write you a ticket, because they know you won’t pay it.  They keep your driver’s license until you go to the police station to clear it. I said I was leaving in a day and that wouldn’t work.  He said I could pay him.  I offered 500 pesos, and he said yes.  So I got out of the experience for $27 US, learned a bit about how the traffic lights work around here and got a good story out of it.


Driving around just to see things, I noticed all the partially completed buildings.  You don’t get a mortgage to build around here, you buy a piece of land, go to Home Depot for some cinder blocks, and start building.  When you run out of money you stop, save up some more and start again.  Eventually, in a year or 2 or 20, you have a completed, paid-for house.  I think this house has been waiting for some love for a very long time.



Appearances seem to mean much less here.  I see hundreds of tiny businesses with crudely hand-painted signs.  In fact, there is only one sign I see frequently that is professionally created;



In the afternoon I went for my dental appointment.  It seems strange to go to a dentist in a mall, across the aisle from Walmart. (Walmart is the largest employer in Mexico), but there I was.

It’s a large and well-appointed place, with 10 dentists drilling away.  I met the manager, Kirt, a very tall Canadian who fell in love with Puerto Vallarta years and decided to stay.  I was assigned to my dentist, a young woman with a decent command of English.  She examined the teeth and took x-rays as much as my gag reflex allowed, then we went upstair to take a 3-D panoramic x-ray.  My teeth are a ghastly sight, but will be better in 8 to 10 months.

Today I’m going wandering again, paying special attention to the red lights.  Then late this afternoon I’ll go back and have what’s left of the 3 completely broken teeth extracted.  Probably not going out for a big dinner tonight.

More tomorrow.


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