Thursday, February 22, 2007

border crossing

i thought it would be fun to take a drive down to mexico for the day. one of the guys on my dodgeball team suggested a cool place to go. aaah, so naive, this is not the equivalent of catching the eurostar to paris. i thought mexico was where college kids went so that they could end up on "girls gone wild", although this goal was not part of my own personal travel pilgrimage.

there are no such things as street signs in tijuana, my conclusion is that their city planning is done by an individual with attention deficit disorder who works while hyped up on a family size box of krispy kreme. there are no lines to divide the lanes, and if you happen to miss or misread a sign there is no reassuring view of the highway going back in the opposite direction (if you can even find an exit ramp). when found, every exit seemed to lead to a ramshackled, dirty, pot-holed (all the adjectives you would find in the thesaurus under the entry "slummy") neighborhood, although there was a rather fetching 50 foot jesus surveying it all, arms outstretched. how my heart bled when i saw a sun withered old man holding a puppy in each hand by the side of the road, i desperately wanted to stop the car and rescue these 2 mangey, flea bitten little fluff balls. however, auto window lock was hastily engaged. i've seen the news stories; i might be kidnapped, my kidneys torn out, finally coming to in a tub full of ice.

at this point the petrol tank was low, because the plan didn't involve so many miles of gas burning detours. mexican petrol stations don't appear to have the handy dandy swipe your card payment option. there were very friendly attendants waiting to pump gas, who spoke impressively fluent spanish (see! even all the way back in school i knew taking french was of little practical use to me). had we been able to negotiate which grade of petrol i had no pesos to give (the bureau de changes after the border were completely bypassed as the car was spat out into the traffic maze fun house), irrespective of being oblivious to what the tipping formalities were. i would like to see the pass criteria for driving tests in mexico, they must use the same standards that the saudis and egyptians use. while my driving response was that of erractic panic, the motorists around me were homicidal. every car had damage on the body work, it was rather like driving a bumper car at the fair.

ten minutes later visual contact was reestablished with the border. i think i stayed longer sitting in traffic to get back into the states than touring what TJ had to offer. the lines at the border were reminiscent of those at the kentucky state fair, just without the mullets. the locals were standing in traffic holding flags, hats, dolls, fried doughy goodness and quite randomly oversized tinkerbells, which did attract my attention as i have her hanging on my rearview mirror. there were old, blind people with collection buckets, a guy with one leg and was propped up on a bike, holding a pair of crutches and a donation cup. if only i had the spanish vocabulary to ask how he was able to ride his bike with one leg holding those cumbersome things.

when you are sitting in the cloroxed, air conditioned comfort zone of your travel channel tv, it is easy to daydream about exploring and experiencing the funk, dirt, and discomfort of travel. there really is something to these character building moments of panic and dissonance, when you feel completely alien, realizing that perhaps you are not quite the brave, unabashed "go out there and get it nomad" as you presume to be. these are the moments you will quietly admit to wanting to see a sign you can read; starbucks, wal-mart, a giant yellow "m".

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