Living  |  See all articles tagged perspectives or in region Guadalajara, Jalisco

A New Beginning

Larry Landwehr

Our final days in Guadalajara were hectic. Not only did we have to arrange to find and hire a moving company, but our FM3 visas were expiring as well. To deal with the FM3s, Mary and I hired an attorney that Harry knew.

George is a Mexican attorney who speaks English quite well. He hangs out at AmSoc and the American Legion in Guadalajara, schmoozing with English speaking expats to make contacts and drum up a little business. He is quite likeable without being the least bit fawning. He came over to our house one day to talk about hiring him to renew our FM3s. We struck a deal that for $150 he would handle all the paperwork.

Once the deal was struck, the three of us engaged in a little social conversation, during which George mentioned a problem he had had with a neighbor. The neighbor was a guy who had moved in with his parents.

Subsequently the parents moved out ­ probably because they couldn’t stand their own son. Once the parents where gone, the parties started - every single night until the sun came up. George went to the police. They told him they could do nothing about it. They suggested that George circulate a petition among the neighbors. If enough people signed, then maybe something could be done. At that point George gave up. Mary and I found out that even Mexicans are angry that the cops do nothing.

A couple of days later George came to our house with some papers for us to sign and brought his wife along as well. Everything went quite well, so well in fact that we wound up inviting George and his wife to come to Aguascalientes and spend the night with us in our new house. George and Rosie accepted with big smiles. Not everything was smooth sailing, however. Mary and I went to the cable company to prepay our final bill.

Mary went in the building while I tried to find a parking spot. Just as I had done so, Mary came back out. A clerk had told her that prepayment was unnecessary. So guess what happened? They cut our services off ­ on Saturday afternoon ­ so that we couldn’t get our service restarted until after the weekend.

I was so mad that I went out to buy a tin shears to cut their cable ­ just like how they had cut the cable off when we first moved into the house because they thought we were pirating the television signal because we chose not to subscribe to Spanish programming. They just cut the cable off at the pole, leaving the cable dangling from the roof of the front of the house, across our front lawn, and over the fence in front of our house - pure damn arrogance.

We decided we could get along without the Internet for a few days. Later on we took the cable modem back to Cybercable to return it and pay our final bill. They tried to refuse the modem because I had forgotten a short piece of wire that came with the modem. Mary told the clerk to check with her supervisor. When the clerk came back, the return was accepted. Apparently the name “Mary” was still remembered and feared by the management.

And even then another clerk tried to overcharge us. The clerk who had talked with management scurried over to straighten out the other clerk. It was quite apparent that the word was out that we were not to be trifled with. They just wanted us out of the building.

Cybercable is an incredibly bad company. Avoid doing business with them if at all possible.

Mary and I returned to the dermatologist to have Mary’s stitches removed. The doctor removed only two of the stitches because the wound hadn’t healed all the way yet. As she was removing the stitches, the doctor motioned me closer to observe what she was doing at close range.

She told Mary that I would be removing the final stitches in Aguascalientes. Mary liked that idea a whole lot. Sure she did. The doctor had to do some earnest talking to convince Mary that I was indeed capable of removing stitches. Oh boy, I get to play doctor! On Mary!!! She’d better start being a lot nicer to me.

As we were leaving, Mary and the doctor hugged each other and kissed each other’s cheeks. A real friendship had sprung up between those two. I don’t think such a thing happens in the States very often. I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted a Mexican driver’s license, so I asked George how much he would charge to help me get one. He said $50 would do it. He’d handle all the paperwork and translate the test questions for me. No road test would be required. So one day the two of us went to the Mexican department of transportation.

The building was huge with people and lines everywhere. George wasn’t bothered in the least. He navigated us to the correct line and got the required forms, which we quickly filled out. Then came the problem.

George had sent my FM3 in to the government to get it renewed. The law in Mexico is that if you have an FM3, the driver’s license is only valid until the FM3 expires. We didn’t know when that date would be. George tried his best to get around that, but the clerk was adamant that she needed the FM3. After a good ten minutes of arguing, George asked to talk to the clerk’s supervisor. The supervisor took the clerk’s side. George spent another ten minutes in fruitless argument, but without success. George never raised his voice the entire time and when he saw that he was beaten, he just smiled at the clerk and supervisor and shook hands with them. I thought that displayed real class.

Meanwhile, Sam turned us on to a family friend that was in the moving business. We made an appointment to meet Salvador, the third generation owner of the Castillo moving company.

Wonder of wonders, Salvador came to our house 15 minutes early. Even better, he spoke English. And even better than that, he agreed to give us a discount because of our friendship with Sam. After a quick tour of the house we settled on $700 to move our stuff ­ plus money to pay for a meal for the movers and a tip for them.

We like Salvador so much that we recommended to Harry that he should hire Salvador for his move (Expats tend to pass along good people ­ Salvador from us to Harry and George from Harry to us). Salvador came early to his meeting with meeting with Harry, impressing the socks off him. Even better was that he agreed to move Harry for less than half the price that another mover had quoted Harry.

While we were waiting for the day of the move, Mary and I drove around doing last minute chores. I took a wrong turn at a stoplight and a cop motioned us to the side of the road. The cop and his partner had motorcycles parked nearby, so I pulled over. The cop’s partner knew enough English to shake us down. We were in a hurry to get our chores done as quickly as possible, so Mary made the mistake of offering 200 pesos (about $20). This was far more than the going rate and I felt my heart sink. The cop immediately demanded 300 pesos.

Mary got out of the car to argue with the cop and moved out of my hearing. I just relaxed, knowing that she would handle the situation. After a while I saw the cop hand my driver’s license back to Mary while she handed him some money ­ both of them palming the money ­ exchanging it in plain sight with people walking past.

Once back in the car, Mary told me that the cop refused to budge from 300 pesos. At one point the cop had looked at my driver’s license and asked Mary if we were both from Wisconsin. Mary’s reply was “Yes we are from Wisconsin. That’s where the poor people live.” I completely cracked up. Mary is a class “A” bullshit artist.

The cop had finally given up and taken the 200 pesos. In a way it’s not too bad a system. The whole thing takes place in a few minutes. There are no points to worry about and your insurance premium does not go up. Two days before the day of the move, Salvador called up to check that we were on schedule. He told Mary that if there was anything he could do to help us, we should let him know.

The big day finally arrived and the truck from Castillo arrived early. The wiry little movers (one guy was short even by Mexican standards) lifted incredible loads. One neat trick they had was using padded cotton harnesses and ropes to move large objects like refrigerators. Two of them would exchange ropes with each other and then set the refrigerator on the ropes. When they stood up, the refrigerator rose up into the air. They could even walk up and down stairs with the refrigerator easy as pie. It was much better than using a dolly.

The satellite TV guys arrived and went up on the roof to take our satellite dish apart. After a half hour they left with our dish, headed to Aguascalientes. Once the movers had loaded everything, they took off for Aguascalientes too.

Mary and I spent a further half an hour talking with our landlady ­ leaving her 500 pesos for any bills we had missed and to pay for a cleaning lady. The landlady told Mary we were the best tenants she had ever had. Our view is that we are guests in Mexico and we need to be on our best behavior.

Finally Mary and I got in our car. We had warned the landlady that I planned to blow the car horn long and loud as a payback for all our jerk neighbors. She had absolutely no problem with that because she had jerk neighbors as well. I laid on the horn for a whole minute. It was satisfying. The landlady smiled and waved us goodbye.

It had been a great year. I had loved almost every single minute of living in Mexico. Mary and I had had adventures galore. We had met interesting and kind people at every turn. I drove the car onto the periferico in the bright sunlight. Mary and I relaxed from the morning’s tension as we drove off to further adventures in Aguascalientes.

Published or Updated on: October 1, 2001 by Larry Landwehr © 2008
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