Saturday, October 22, 2011

By Michael

I've learned from our Ford Escort experience to buy a car
only after several years of that model have been
produced. Having spent most of my working life in
software development, I understand that a car, like software,
is a system that takes several builds before it is a stable,
reliable system. Our dear vehicle was the last iteration
of the Escort wagon when she was deployed in 1999,
and boy was she reliable.
Just after 9:00 p.m. last night, I was pulled over by Mexican police in an SUV. I was in a left turn lane across from the Walmart in downtown Puerto Vallarta. The light was red and they were behind me, lit up like a Christmas tree. They spoke over their loudspeaker, but I couldn’t understand a word. Folks stopped in the cars around me turned to look at me, the back of my head and the inside of my car ablaze from the light of a glaring spotlight. I shrugged at everyone and mouthed, “N-o    e-n-t-i-e-n-d-o.” I must have seemed ridiculous.
When the cars in my right lane moved forward, the police pulled up alongside. I now understood they wanted me to pull forward against the light, across the intersection, and stop. I clarified, in Spanish, whether they wanted me on the right or left. “Izquierda,” the driver responded.
He started by asking me whether I spoke Spanish or English. I offered that I spoke a little Spanish. He then explained my transgression: I should not have used the intersection a ways back to transition to the lateral, the name of the outside lanes from which left turns are made in Mexico. Windy suggested the same thing several times recently, so I nodded and asked, “Really?”
With my license in hand, he pantomimed writing a ticket and told me he would do just that. He said in Spanish that I could pay the $500 peso fine on Monday and pick up my license at the same time. I scrunched my eyebrows in a worried look I inherited from my mom and said, “I don’t understand.” He repeated everything in broken English.
I could see where this was going, but I wasn’t hurrying us along. “Where do I go on Monday? Where is the police station?”
“Do you want to pay it now?” he said.
“You said I have to pay Monday. I’ll need to get my license back. Where is the police station?”
“Two-hundred pesos, you pay now.”
“You said five-hundred, on Monday, at the police station. I’ll need to get my license back. I’m confused.”
He handed me my license in a bid to help me understand. In broken English he made it clear that I could pay now and avoid the hassle and big fine on Monday, my choice. I put the worried face back on and dug around in my pockets, it was still dark in my lap. I knew I had a couple of 500-peso notes and a couple of very small notes folded together. With slight-of-hand that would have impressed Houdini, I presented 70 pesos as all the cash I had. They accepted my offering and drove off.
During more than three months driving in Mexico, I was never pulled over. During our entire road-tripping odyssey from D.C., I was never pulled over. I haven’t been pulled over in probably eight years. Why was I in the left turn lane across from Walmart late at night? To hand over the keys to our car’s new owner, waiting for me in front of Walmart. I was less than a football field’s length away from never driving this car again.
Hopefully we can convince Frances to stay inside the lifelines when we are out sailing.
Lifeline netting is coming soon. Also shown here are the newly completed additions to our pulpit.
The metal cage at the bow is now stiffer and more enclosed. Before we leave,
we plan to add a seat up there, and a second anchor roller.


  1. Murphy was determined to squeeze in that last appearance!

  2. I can see your "confused" face . . .

  3. I still cannot believe that car made it all the way there AND that now someone will pay you money for it.


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