Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Mexican Stress Test: How do you think you would do?

Many people, including myself, wax poetic about how life in Mexico has changed them.

We talk about how the different pace of life has made us more patient. We share how we have a newfound appreciation for things we didn’t notice before.

But how do we really know if we have actually changed, or if we are just telling ourselves (and others) that we have changed? I present to you: the Mexican Stress Test.

A disclaimer: I just invented the Mexican Stress Test last night — but I do think I am on to something.

My wife and I have had the luck of having the power go out in our home in San Miguel de Allende two of the past three nights. The first time, it was very localized, just the 20 or so homes in our privada. Last night, it was big — basically all of central San Miguel went out, and there were outages reported in 21 states across the country. When the power goes out in our home, it is extra special because it also immediately cuts out our water and internet. So we get the trifecta — an immediate total loss of our power, water, and internet. Oh, and we don’t have a backup generator.

Here is where the Mexican Stress Test comes into effect. The question I would like each of you to ask yourselves is: what do you do when your power goes out at your home?

Be honest with yourself. Do you stress out? Get angry? Call the power company repeatedly until you get a clear answer? I’ll be honest, when I lived in the U.S., I did all of those things.

I truly had a “time is money, I must be efficient, and the power outage is wasting my time and making me inefficient” mindset. I would call the power company, text friends and neighbors to see what they knew and complain to my wife. In summary, I wasted the entire power outage being stressed about the power outage.

In Mexico, I have found that I take the outages totally differently.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine how you will react until it actually happens. Two nights ago, the power went out around 9 p.m. with an exploding transformer that startled us. My wife and I just laughed, sighed and set up a makeshift bed on our ground floor to sleep (as it is relatively cooler than our upstairs bedroom).

We had never done this before, it’s not like we were super prepared to do this, but it just seemed like the logical thing to do at the moment. We slept fine, woke up without power, and walked to a friends house in a nearby neighborhood that had power so we could shower. We bought breakfast at a little coffee shop and by the time we got home by late morning, our power was back!

Tonight’s outage was a bit more dramatic as the power went out all over the city. I was finishing a walk and all of a sudden, boom!, it went out and everyone immediately started coming out of their homes and hanging out on the street.

I needed to buy some water, so I went to the local mini-store to find them still open, lit by a single Coke bottle with a candle in it. I talked to a family in the street, petted an 8-week-old husky puppy for awhile that a woman was playing with in the street, and then headed home to find my wife just laying on top of the bed, in the dark, meditating and thinking.

Woman holding a husky puppy
A new friend Travis made while the power was out. (Travis Bembenek)

After making a wager as to how long this particular outage would last, I laid down next to her and we spontaneously started having a strategic brainstorming session about our business — Mexico News Daily.

There we were, in total darkness, with no internet, and with phone signals jammed from so much cellular traffic that there was nothing to do but just talk. Over the period of the next 90 minutes, completely uninterrupted by the many distractions of modern life, we had a wonderful, high-quality discussion about some strategic issues that needed to be addressed.

When the power came back on, we were actually a bit disappointed that it returned so quickly, as we were still deep in thought and conversation.

I can’t say that I hope for another power outage anytime soon, but as I reflect on these two evenings, I am surprised by how calm I was on both occasions. I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t complaining about what I wasn’t able to do, I just took it in stride, enjoyed the journey, and actually got some great thinking done that I was having trouble getting to when the power was on.

I think I passed this particular Mexican Stress Test. And I feel damn good about it.

Travis Bembenek is the CEO of Mexico News Daily and has been living, working or playing in Mexico for over 27 years.

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