I made it back to the San Francisco Bay area, but only after great anxiety on the bus ride to Mexico City. I thought I had it all planned out really well: catch the 7 a.m. ETN bus to Mexico Norte, then take the cab to the airport. I would be at the airport by 11 a.m. and would have time to window shop the duty-free shops for cosmetics and perfumes.
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I turned the gas on to heat water to wash. No gas. I used more in my month than anticipated and I ran out (I heat the water because, while the shower gets great hot water, the sink six feet away gets lukewarm water). So I washed with cold water. I made it down the hill wheeling my bags behind me (clever me, I didn’t need a taxi).
I had a little extra time before the bus arrived, so I thought everything was going swimmingly well. The bus for Guanajuato & Guadalajara arrived (the Mexico Norte bus was dozing in the adjacent anden). The buses are clearly marked with their destinations on the front of the bus, above the driver’s window: nevertheless, a norteamericana went up to the Guanajuato boarding agent and asked if that was the bus for Mexico City, and he just pointed to the sign. To her credit, she asked en español – en perfecto, sin acento.
Once on our bus, two norteamericanos sat behind me. One just jabbered on and on, and nothing seemed to please him. There was no wifi. The seat was too far back, the seat was too far from the seat in front of it, the seat was uncomfortable, the roll for the sandwich wasn’t to his liking, they didn’t have his favorite kind of juice, the magazines his companion had brought were too old, and on and on during that first hour of cruising along, which came to an abrupt end.
For the next two hours we were part of a stop-and-go-movement, pulling leap-frog like ahead of semi tractors pulling 25 meters of cargo (yup, those little pups labeled Precaucion: Doble Semi-remolque), then falling behind them. The passenger behind me then wailed about this being the worst traffic ever, that the rides are never as short as advertised, it was always late, etc. At some point, when we were cruising again, he sauntered back to the rest rooms to smoke a cigarette and the smoke was distributed evenly throughout the bus by the ventilating system. When he returned to his seat, the bus driver had opened the door that separated his compartment from the passengers. Perhaps ten minutes later, the gent headed back to the restroom and smoked another cigarette. The driver told him no se puede fumar, señor to which he did not respond. I turned to the passenger and told him that the smoke traveled through the ventilating system. He neither thanked me nor apologized. Later he offered me one of his friend’s outdated New Yorker magazines.
In the meantime I’m imagining my time cushion evaporate, losing the scent of Dior, Givenchy, Lagerfeld and Guerlain to diesel fumes. I’m beginning to write the monolog which I’ll give my Bay Area friends about how I missed my flight – really, this time it wasn’t my fault – picturing the hotel I’ll sleep in, trying to negotiate a replacement flight with the airline.
We made it to Mexico Norte a little after noon. I went to the taxi kiosk, got my ticket, allowed the porter to wheel my near empty suitcase (he did get me the next cab, thank you very much!) and away I went to el aeropuerto. We got behind a semi bob-tailing its way down a preferred shortcut, the cab driver stopped for gas – better that than the alternative, we debated terminale uno or dos – the airline’s web site was very clear that it used terminal 1 for its departures despite the fact that terminal 2 is the international terminal, and I yielded to the cab driver – he does this every day, after all – and I am just a norteamericana and tipped him generously.
I got in line behind a number of people, all of whom had weight issues with their luggage (so they were opening bags and rearranging their loads, seriously challenging the 60-ton capacity of those dobles or folks with passport issues, and finally an American who had to pay the fine for having lost the portion of the Visitante visa which one is to turn in when one leaves the country.
I made it to the gate with 45 minutes to spare. The flight was on-time for its departure although boarding began 15 minutes late. We landed in Orange County where we cleared customs – not the smoothest arrangement of the international airports in the United States, but still easy enough. The officials always seem surprised when I have nothing to declare – no presents, no gifts, no souvenirs. Perhaps they’ll understand when they reach retirement age and are dependent on a pension and/or Social Security, if it still exists.