Trips to Mexico City: Bring Extra Money and Expect the Unexpected

The other day I was telling my friend about a recent trip to Mexico City that we made in order to do some paperwork. OK. I was complaining. …OK. I was whining. The whole day was difficult and to top it off a lady was rude to us on the bus. Then she told me about a recent trip SHE had made to Mexico City with her family, driving their car. The conclusion? Driving may be less physically exhausting, but it’s a lot more expensive.

I’ll start with our trip.

You may have read a previous post on this blog about a certain paperwork tangent. Well, the tangent continues and so does the paperwork that we are trying to do. It’s hard to say exactly what it is that makes paperwork so hard in Mexico. In the case of the trip to Mexico City, I think it’s the lack of a secure, affordable mail service. We had to get an official seal on a document that could only be granted by a government office in Mexico City–the nation’s capital. Obviously, we would have to hand-carry the documents to Mexico City to have them stamped. Also, obviously, we would not write a check for the service, but instead, go to a bank and pay ahead for the service. I had done that the day before to the tune of about an hour in line with my son crying because it was hot in the bank–no air conditioning.

I feel for anyone living in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chihuahua, Baja California, San Luis Potosi… basically anywhere other than the state of Mexico and bordering states. How do they do it? Hop on an overnight bus? Anyway, as it was it took us two hours on the bus to get to Mexico City. During this trip we tried to keep our son from kicking the seat in front of him, from playing in the aisle, from making weird slapping noises on the window. The lady in front of us was trying to rest. She had leaned her seat back and we had to be very careful that he didn’t try to lean on the back of her seat and accidentally pull her hair. Toward the end of the trip he was crying because his father wouldn’t let him fiddle with the seatbelt of the guy across the aisle.  At that point, the lady gave up on trying to nap and set about being a lovely help. She chatted with our son and made the end of the trip a little more tolerable.

After a half hour on the metro, which was crawling like a slug we bailed public transit and climbed to the surface to catch a cab. Why the rush? Well because if you don’t get to the office by 12:00 they won’t give you your paperwork until the next day! Neither of us relished the idea of coming back again, so there we were hailing a cab.

The driver put us at ease, assuring us that the 20 minutes that remained before noon was enough to get us the rest of the way to the government building. He charged us 25 pesos and let us out in front of the building with the name of the correct government agency over the doorway, but I had a feeling it was the wrong street. Things just didn’t match the map that I had in my head. (Here’s a hot tip for when you live in Mexico: Memorize a street map and metro map of the area you intend to visit prior to leaving your house so that you will know where you are going and won’t be quite so easy to target as a visitor.) I figured we may have to walk around the block in order to enter the building through the correct entrance.

While my husband ran for copies of the documents and our ID’s–we’d never ever, ever done paperwork in Mexico before without needing copies of many things–I asked what entrance to go in. Well, at 12:05 p.m. I found out that we were at the WRONG building. The one we wanted was several blocks away–enough blocks away that there was a bus involved in the directions people gave me when asked how to get there!

That’s when the snipping and bitching began. Hey! No marriage is completely free of at least a little snipping.

After hailing a second taxi, we were let out in front of the correct government office–for $40 pesos! $40 pesos for a 5 minute ride. I want that job. That’s like $48 US dollars an hour–if you can get enough suckers to ride in your taxi, anyway.

Anyway. It was 12:15 when we were handed our number and took our seat in the waiting area. They quickly called our number and my husband took our documents up to the person waiting at the counter. I tried to accompany him, but there was an intense scuffle complete with biting and hair pulling on my son’s part and grumpy words and mean looks on mine. Apparently, he was hungry and tired–imagine that.

Despite the violence coming from the snuggli I was wearing I managed to hear my husband ask me if we still had the bus tickets from that morning’s ride. I knew where they were and quickly pulled them from an outside pocket of the backpack. I had to remove our loud toddler from the room before I had a bald patch on my head, so I left the rest to my husband, but I had lived in Mexico long enough to recognize a bluff-calling move being debunked. Those tickets? That was to prove that we really had tried to get to the office on time; that we really had come all of the way from Cuernavaca carrying our paperwork, our lunch, our son, and several changes of diapers. In short, to see if my husband was telling the truth and in fact deserved to be cut some slack for not making it by noon. Bless their hearts they gave us our papers the same day! Where’s the irony? They didn’t require a single photo copy.

We waited out on the street, in the rain; tried to entertain our son without letting him get wet; changed our son’s diaper on a semi-dry stoop; ate standing up at a deep-fat-fried quesadilla stand and 1 hour and 30 minutes later had our precious documents back in the backpack and set out to find the nearest metro station. At the metro station I spent about 30 minutes finding a bathroom. After paying 2.50 pesos for it, waited for someone to come out of the women’s room (there was one stall), finally used the men’s and went down to the metro. We crammed onto the metro.

Later we bought tickets to Cuernavaca and got into our assigned seats in the bus. As soon as we sat down, our son, who had only napped about 30 minutes on the metro began to cry loudly. We got him calmed down and he was happily playing with his car on the floor by my feet. I thought I could finally relax.

That’s when the worst moment happened. All of a sudden the woman in the seat in front of us loudly, and in a very snotty voice demanded that I stop my son from kicking her seat. I was shocked. His feet were on the floor. In fact, they had never been anywhere near the back of her seat. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t even leaning on her seat and accidentally pulling her hair. He wasn’t even slapping the window with his hands. I replied equally loudly that I’d do my best. But the truth was, we were already doing our best. Apparently, she could feel pressure on her seat when he stood up and his head touched the back of her seat. We looked around, but the bus was packed. My husband quietly asked her if she’d like to switch seats. “No!” she replied as nasally as possible. Then she said something that I couldn’t understand. It sounded like she was ordering me to sit on him. I asked her to repeat. She repeated two times. It still sounded like she was telling me to sit on my son. My husband couldn’t understand her either, but we could tell by the tone of her voice that she wanted to be as mean as possible to us. We gave up on communication.

Poor us. We were so worn out. Anyway, I rode for an hour sitting sidesaddle on my seat while my son stood up and looked over the back of my seat and moved the arm rest up and down. I was so mad at that lady. I’m not sure if I should have done it, but I relished in a juvenile act of revenge just as we got off the bus. My son was up ahead with my husband and I knew he wouldn’t see me elbow the back of her seat with all my might.

“She hit me! How rude!” She squealed. I knew enough not to pull her hair too, so I decided to leave it at that. Later I wished I’d said, “Yeah, and you wanted to be the only rude one on the bus,” but it’s hard to come up with good come-backs in your second language.

Besides I was already off the bus and the tears were starting to flow.

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