I often reflect on my life in Mexico and mentally chronicle the multitudinous occurrences that affirm my choice of being comfortably ensconced in this fascinating culture.
Several months back I watched a neighbor (we will call him Bob) easily solve a problem which would have been a difficult and expensive process anywhere north of the border. Bob’s house sits at the end of a short, dead-end street at the edge of Centro, which the city decided to pave and add storm drains.
I know some readers will scoff at any Mexican city’s attempts to corral and direct the deluges precipitated by the wet season, but this was on a hill, so proper directional flow was somewhat assured.
Bob’s problem was that the finished elevation on the city street outside his home, once they had completed their initial work including grading, became two feet lower than the end of his nice, concrete driveway; a distinctly vertical precipice.
Fortunately Bob has lived in Mexico for more than 15 minutes and he can dance to the Mariachi tune that lives in the back of his mind. He approached the equipment operators and the paving crew and cut a deal to blend and patch his driveway as well as a couple of neighbors’ driveways, as part of the completed project.
His total outlay was 5,000 pesos and a carton of Pacífico ballenas (quart-size beers). The workers were happy, Bob was happy and the city either never noticed or noticed and didn’t care: viva México. Bob’s neighbors love him because he is an Anglo who is able to commune with the common worker as well as show proper respect to his neighbors.
Now, just imagine what would happen if Bob attempted to disentangle a similar dilemma anywhere north of Tijuana. He would approach the equipment operators and paving crew and arrange for the work to be bootlegged on a Saturday or Sunday when building officials are off work.
All goes well and by the end of the weekend Bob’s driveway slopes perfectly to the street. This cost Bob a couple of thousand dollars and a bottle of Jack Daniels; the crew is happy, Bob is happy and all is well with the world — until Bob gets a knock on the door.
Bob is confronted by a man in a suit who says he wants to see the encroachment permit allowing him to tie his driveway into the city street. Bob tells the man his dog ate all his city paperwork last week and therefore he cannot produce the encroachment permit.
The next day, Bob has three men in suits at his door, all with ominous expressions meant to humiliate and shame Bob for his nefarious behavior.
Bob is given the following: an application for an encroachment permit, the city’s demand for engineered plans and specifications, an application for a city permit to build the driveway extension, an application to the city surveyor to correct the plat map, a formal demand from the city to remove the illegal structure within 24 hours or be faced with further punitive action, and last but not least a court summons which could result in six months in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
Bob spends the next eight months and countless dollars slowly extricating himself from the sticky web of rules and regulations, most of which he had never known existed until now. Bob’s neighbors shun him now because of his criminal behavior.
Now, let’s see, which attitude is preferable? Since the excavation and paving crews were private contractors and not city workers, Bob’s behavior in his Mexican neighborhood did not involve any bribes to city officials, so this is not an issue of corruption or lawless behavior.
He only paid a fair price for his and his neighbor’s driveway extensions and by doing so, never complained to the city for leaving him high and dry; simple problem with a simple solution.
This is just one example of how superb life is in Mexico and how insanely complex life is becoming in an overly regulated society north of the border.
Of course Mexico has its share of complex rules and regulations which can leave a gringo’s head spinning, but compliance is never enforced with the zeal so often seen in so-called first-world countries.
Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time on the west coast of Mexico with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.