You never know what you are going to pick up as a new talent when you move to Mexico. Many of my friends, for instance, have become fluent in Spanish after immersing themselves in language classes for eight hours a day for months.
I went to one class with Michelle and discovered there was little time for drinking of any sort, just work, work, work. I told my disappointed wife that I did not retire to chain myself to a new millstone; no, I was made to frolic.
I would rather carry on using my useful ability to mime my thoughts. It is much more fun to dance around the restaurant clucking like a turkey rather than ask for a turkey dinner in Spanish. I think I cheer up the place by making a complete fool of myself, and it might even be good for tourism.
I tried learning to be a handyman, an honorable trade if there ever was one, as there is always a need for people like that. My companion of 30 years waved at me as I was about to join friends on the beach at Fedenzio’s because a faucet in the kitchen was giving her trouble.
Like most normal men, I showed her where I kept the emergency duct tape, but that did not seem to make her happy. She kept talking about wrenches and plumbers’ snakes that she had watched on YouTube. Oh how I hate YouTube. Just smarty pants, all of them, as my late mother would have said. I have my own way of doing things.
“Where’s my hammer?” I asked. I don’t know about you, but I find a good whack from a solid hammer makes most things work out. But not this time.
Apparently you are not supposed to hit any pipe, especially something called a flange. The water poured out onto our tiled floors, while my friends at the beach were no doubt wondering where I was. What to do? So I said: “Well, well,” and gave a short laugh.
“You idiot!” shouted my formerly good-natured girl. Just then my pal from downstairs, Don, suddenly appeared.
“Well, well,” he said and instead of being called a bad name like I was, he was welcomed by my wife with:
“Oh, Don, thank God you are here!”
Is that fair? However, his arrival meant I could split to the beach and a margarita with my name on it, and was I parched.
But no, Don insisted that I stay and learn how it was done, and my wife was on his side. On TV they make it look interesting, but in real life I would rather step on a nail than sit stooped under a sink. Don never asked me once for the duct tape or my hammer. So that was the end of my career as a handyman.
However, I have become a master of something not usually recognized as anything special, and that is mopping.
I know it sounds stupid but let me explain. Once a week our maid Marie arrives to do our living area and she and her son do a great job. We are lucky enough to have a terrace above us about the same size as what Marie cleans and once a month or so it also needs a cleaning from the outdoor elements, mainly the bloody birds and dust. In that case, Marie’s husband Antonio is put to work with mops and a pail, but I was never completely satisfied with his work.
One day I walked up the stairs to watch the procedure and was shocked to find him sitting on the throne in our bathroom on the roof while smoking and reading a filthy book, which I immediately confiscated in order to brush up on my street Spanish.
To make matters worse his little son was doing all the work with the mop. I was so appalled I decided I would do the mopping in the future.
I had noticed how Mexican women prepare their mops by immersing them in hot water and squeezing the water out by hand. They grab half the strands and then twist them until almost dry. Then keeping that half dry, they grab the other half and do same twisting with that one.
Here is where it gets tricky. They do not mop more than a fairly small area before repeating the above, so that every tile gets a “seeing to.” Having finished the space they want clean they start again, so that everything receives a cleaning twice, no matter how big or small.
The first time I tried it, I was excited because one, I was saving money and two, I was learning a new craft and not just playing Pickle Ball or something else useless. I discovered I was good at it. But because surfaces dry faster in the midday sun, I did my chores naked.
At first I was a little shy and tried to avoid the back of our place where the other condos were, but after a while I thought that if someone wanted to see an old man naked, rock on. Sadly I have had more than a few outraged letters from my formally benign neighbors.
Anyway, I find my mopping has surprised my wife favorably, and that I enter a zen-like state that is very good for my aging brain cells. Plus I am getting exercise without hurting my knees by sitting under a sink.
You should try it. But do it nude and you can expect nasty notes from spying neighbors.
The writer lives under a palapa in Puerto Vallarta.
© Christopher Dalton 2015