Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Evening (and a lot of night) From Hell: In Two Acts

ACT I: Mexican Airport Hell
Because everything is not always sunshine and roses in Mexico as the pictures I post might lead one to believe, I thought I would relate the story of what happened to me on my return trip from Mexico City.

I decided to leave Mexico City a day early, on Saturday as opposed to Sunday, because of sheer exhaustion after a week of traveling and imbibing with my friend. Saturday morning I booked a flight on the internet with Mexicana airlines to come home that evening at 6:00pm. I entered my credit card information and received a confirmation number so I assumed everything was hunky dory and proceeded to the Zocalo to be a major turista.

I left the hotel around 4:15 and arrived at the airport at 5:00 and went to the check out line. When I reached the ticket agent she seemed to be having difficulties with my reservation and after consulting with another agent told me that my transaction online was only to HOLD a seat, I hadn't actually purchased it yet and I needed to stand in a different line in order to do this. She points over my head to a much longer line and I look back at her nervously but she assures me that I have a seat.

I then head over to the line for purchasing tickets which was apparently being staffed by idiots, or the people in front of me were requesting window seats to Antartica, either way things were taking a long time. When it is finally my turn, and getting close to 5:20, I proceed to the agent thinking there is no problem as I have a confirmation etc. and the other agent had informed that I had a seat on the flight. Well apparently the other lady was giving me the big brush off. This new agent told me I could not get on this flight because it was too close to the time of its departure. I explained that I had gotten there on time and also pointed out my confirmation number and told her that my credit card information had been entered earlier in the day. "Doesn't matter, it is too late." "Well is there another flight?" "No, that is the last one of the day." So now I'm pissed, I have done everything I'm supposed to do and this lady is telling me I'm now sleeping in the Mexico City airport! I want to get home and go to sleep! After telling her this in not such nice terms she lets me know that another airline might have a flight. I give her a few more words and then leave to find another flight. Luckily, Aviacsa had a 9:00pm flight and I was able to book a seat. This meant, however, that I would then get to spend 4 glorious hours in the Mexico City airport. If you know anything about the Mexico City airport you will know that it is terrible and spending four hours tooling around its nether regions is not something anyone should be subjected to.

I went and got a hamburger at Wings to make myself feel better. There is nothing like eating imitation American food to soothe the soul. I think I know why they call it Wings though, once you taste the imitation American hamburgers you want to be able to spread your wings and get the hell out of there as fast as possible.

ACT II: Trouble at the Big House
So when I finally got on the 9pm flight on Aviacsa I arrived in Oaxaca and took a collectiva to the big house I'm currently staying in for a few months. I managed to get a house sitting gig that turns out to be more expensive than actually renting an apartment but more about that injustice in another post. After taking a collectiva I reach the front gate of the big house around 11:15, mas o menos. I opened the front gate just fine but when I walked up to the front door, the handyman, who had left that very afternoon, padlocked the bars/grid that covers the front door. It looked large, looming, and menacing, as I have recreated in this photo.

I didn´t have a key to this padlock because, well that is another long story, but anyway, I didn´t have a key. I begin to freak out because it is late, I don´t know anybody in the neighborhood, all my contact numbers are locked inside, and the house is freakin' Fort Knox. There is no way to break in short of a blow torch, which of course they confiscated at security in the Mexico City airport. Yes, I jest. I suppose the bright side to being locked out is realizing how safe I am when I'm locked in!

I look in the garage for a potential extra set of keys, luckily I had thought to bring my headlamp, but found nothing as I was spelunking through the empty flower pots and garbage cans. I briefly contemplated sleeping outside but thought better of it due to the cold nights and my distaste at the thought of peeing in the garden with no paper. Notice the distaste is not for defacing the garden but rather for not having toilet paper. It becomes clear I'm going to have to walk to the main road (which is about 10 minutes away over both dirt and cement and it is not well lit) to get a cab and try to find a hotel.

I decided to leave my luggage on the front porch because I didn´t want to draw even more attention to the fact that I'm a single white girl tromping around on quite deserted roads close to midnight. Also, if I had to run from someone, trying to escape evil with a rolly (rollie?) bag might make things a bit more difficult than I would like. Now there are some street lights but they are scattered and I would never walk alone so late at night in Mexico, or the U.S. for that matter, much less in this area as isolated as the surroundings of the big house. I make it to the main road in record time through a combination of walking and running (after passing an old drunk, a car, and seeing a large truck full of police with machine guns surrounding someone in the truck bed) and hail a cab.

The cabbie and his buddy in the passenger seat must have known that they were going to be able to charge me a bit based on the fact that I'm a lone white girl, slightly sweaty and out of breath, whose Spanish seems to have completely failed her due to nerves. At this point however I do not have a choice and will pay them what they want knowing that another cab might not come by for awhile and despite my unease at getting into a car filled with two strange men.

I ask them if there is a hotel close by and they take me to one which, luckily, has a room free for 60 bucks. As I'm checking in I was trying to ask the front desk clerk if I could use the internet to send out a quick note to the owner of the house as I was in a bit of an emergency situation. Or at least this is what I was trying to say in Spanish but I don't think that is what was coming across. I was so stressed from walking around in the dark and not having contact information for anyone I could no longer speak Spanish and I think my English might have failed me as well. So I just started crying right there at the front desk and tell the guy to just show me where the room is, which, upon first glance just makes me cry even harder. Here I was hoping to come home early and have a good nights sleep, relax, get settled in Mexico and now I'm stuck in a craptastic hotel room. I don't think the poor front desk guy knew what hit him and imagine what he must have been thinking. A white girl gets dropped off alone in a cab at midnight, she is sweaty and out of breath and is trying to say something about an emergency and then just breaks down into tears. I'm sure he wanted nothing to do with any of it.

Despite the fact that I am exhausted I cannot sleep. I have no clothes other than those I'm wearing as I left my luggage at the house. I have no toothbrush or toothpaste, and not only am i thinking about the possibility of bedbugs but also the possibility that I'm going to kill the owners of the big house due to their lack of communication with me about exactly who has keys to what and who locks what! It was also a typical Mexican hotel room in that the acoustics were fantastic! By that I mean I could hear dogs barking who were three blocks away and yet it felt like they were right there in the room with me! There was also a gentleman in the room above me, or next to me, not sure which, who must have been either sick or drunk because he was throwing up and blowing his nose really loud, and sniffling all night. He had the old man nose blowing volume. You know what I mean, when men get old for some reason their sneezes and nose blowing has about the same number of decibels as a jet engine. Why is that? The sound of this was so clear it felt like he was laying in the bed next to me. Needless to say it was a long sleepless night.

Left the room around 8am, took a bus into town and walked to Geri´s and started banging on her gate. Luckily she was home and let me in and I stayed there on Sunday night until the architect who built the big house came to unlock the padlock on Monday. I guess he lives 40 minutes outside of Oaxaca and didn´t want to drive all the way in just for me (heaven forbid) so he waited until Monday when he had an appointment in town.

Epilogue (or something that signifies the end in theater)
So you see, everything is not roses and lollipops, some days in Mexico are more like dog shit on your shoe and a heaping helping of polluted ice cubes in your drink. Viva Mexico!