October 02, 2003


Mexico City

I suppose being the only person pulled out of the boarding lineup by a customs dog isn't the worst way to start a trip, but it made things more interesting. The dog picked up on a roll of US currency I had stuffed in a pant leg pocket right at dog-nose height. It took only a few minutes with customs for them to figure that everything was ok, but that didn't seem to persuade the rest of the passengers that I wasn't dangerous to them - a sentiment I accidently reenforeced by popping the drink spout on my water bottle closed with a pop louder than any you'd ever think one of those things could make. The passengers in the isle directly in front of me ducked.

The flight left about midnight, and ever the optimist I figured I'd get a few hours sleep on the plane. Twas not to be. Long before I ever booked that flight, Rosio gave notice to Mexicana Airlines that today would be her last shift before retirement after 23 years as a flight attendant with the airline. The plane was adorned with streamers and helium balloons and Spanish banners. Most of the rest of the staff was her family, and a significant number of her friends were on board as passengers. On the upside, amid the cheering and balloon-popping, nobody on board remembered customs pulled me aside earlier as a potential threat to their safety. I didn't, however, get any sleep.

Mexico City is a daunting place when you're alert, much less half awake. I arrived just in time to make morning rush hour traffic in a cab ride across town. The entertainment value of that ride was worth every sleepless moment on the plane. At no time was there ever more than 2 feet between us and another solid object, though the average was easily inches. 20 million people worth of cars, trucks, motorcycles, vending carts and other interesting vehicles flowed in a fascinating self-regulating movement. After barely squeezing between two trucks at speed, the sun popped out and my driver asked if I happened to notice his glasses on the seat when I got in. I told him no, but that there was a pair of sunglasses on his dashboard. "Not those ones" he said and began hunting through the car looking for them. We're still driving. I looked down at the floor at his feet and told him there were a pair down there but they weren't sunglasses. "Ah! That's them. Can't drive without them." As we were stopped at a large intersection where several police were directing traffic around construction, a motorcyclist with a passenger on the back split the narrow space between lanes and and blew through the intersection right by the police - with one hand searching in a side bag for something. I asked the cab driver what the police thought of motorcyclists in the city. I didn't understand his explanation completely, but the idea was that they are on their own - the police don't care what they do, and won't help them if (when) they get hurt.

I've spent the day exploring the city's core. Markets, cathedrals and assorted other points of interest. Eventually I'll post pics.

It's the end of a long couple of days without sleep, and I'm about to collapse into bed at a hostle. I'll post this tomorrow.

Posted by dhuska at October 2, 2003 06:17 PM