Bodie Kellogg Opinion
gas cap o-ring The key to locating a gas cap O-ring.

O-ring quest awakens the inner Mexican

Not thinking like a gringo was the way to solve the problem

Over the past few years I have written and archived several stories about the ordeal of an expat melding into the transformative process of living fully in a foreign land.

The persistent nature of this culture to leave me astounded, shocked, puzzled and amused, sometimes all at once, has given me an overabundance of grist for my mill. So I would like to present my first column that deals with my constant struggle not to be a bumbling and blunderous gringo, tossed about in the cultural riptide of life in Mexico.

Hardly a week goes by without an encounter or situation that I define as “absolutely and unquestionably Mexican.” In no way am I using this phrase in a derogatory manner; it is simply a description of an action that I would never encounter in my old life north of the border.

The circumstances of these episodes can either leave one writhing in a morass of enraged frustration or floating in the rarefied air of pure cultural triumph; it is solely your choice. I know expats will never truly achieve the timeless tranquility that runs through the fabric of this culture, but never give up the quest, for there lies the gratification.

Last year I needed a new O-ring gasket for the gas cap on my chainsaw. Why I possess a chainsaw in an urban environment would require a protracted and tedious explanation, so we will press forward. I went to the chainsaw shop and showed the owner my gas cap with the bad O-ring and asked for another.

After digging through several boxes he proudly produced a new gas cap and declared its worth to be 480 pesos. I looked closely to see if any precious metals or dazzling gemstones were included in this exorbitant price. I then removed the damaged O-ring from my gas cap and carefully explained my cap was just fine, I only needed the little rubber gasket.

After giving it some thought, he told me I could have the new cap for the very special price of only 380 pesos. When further queries accompanied by hand gestures could not produce a simple O-ring, I relented. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.

As I returned to my car, I realized this was one of those maniacal moments when an expat could lose total composure because you know that somewhere he has an O-ring without the cap. However, this is Mexico, and a 380-peso sale is far more desirable than a paltry two-peso sale.

My gringo brain immediately went into exploited expat mode. There are times when I feel I must have a dollar sign on my forehead that only Mexicans can see.

Ten years ago I would never have thought much further than being an exploited gringo. I would have grumbled and complained about the dysfunctional aspects of modern Mexico; sometimes it is so hard to accomplish even the simplest of things. And I would have probably returned the next day and spent 380 pesos for a two-peso O-ring.

But now that I am enrolled in the Acme Expat Immersion Therapy and Attitude Modification Program I am able to come to terms with my gringo-ness and no longer suffer the anguish of self loathing or the excruciating despair of my continuing cultural failures.

Thank you, Acme, for showing me how to recognize potentially aggravating situations and giving me the knowledge and fortitude required to break through personal barriers, to assume the insouciant ethos of Mexican culture; just think like a Mexican.

So, as I put my retrained mind to the task of solving my O-ring problem, I was instantly rewarded with a viable solution. I realized I had been thinking like a gringo when I automatically went to the saw shop to find the proper gasket for the cap.

I should be thinking how the average Mexican would solve the O-ring problem.

This culture wrests the maximum utility from all things tangible; cars, couches, cardboard boxes and literally everything used on a daily basis is used to death. What this means is that the useful life of all things tangible has been artfully extended way past all optimistic expectations.

This propensity to repair, and even resuscitate when possible, all things tangible has spawned a multitude of specialty parts and repair shops. So I simply went to the rubber store that had all sizes of O-rings and found an exact match. I purchased five for a total of five pesos, which quickly assuaged my inner Mexican.

Since I hadn’t wasted the entire day on my O-ring quest, I went back to the saw shop. I went to the owner and handed him three of the O rings while explaining they could help other people who might just need an O-ring and could not afford a new gas cap. The man’s expression and demeanor transitioned from confusion to comprehension to unexpected pleasure over a long 15 seconds.

Now, when I stop by the saw shop, I am accepted as a friend who’s not too much of a gringo and certainly not a financial windfall.

Again, I would like to thank the Acme Expat Immersion Therapy and Attitude Modification Program for disinterring the inner Mexican from the depths of my clouded soul.

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 [email protected].

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