Out of Gas

Yes I guess that could be a metaphor for my blogging frequency as of late – but I’ve been super busy working at my real job, buying Christmas presents, and layering and unlayering myself to withstand the 10 degree temperatures around here. (I refuse let the cold weather keep me from biking and walking around my ‘hood.)

That and trying to repair my dishwasher – so I’m washing dishes in the sink, just like the olden days. I was chatting with my Mom about my Grandparent’s old house – namely the gargantuan alien spaceship looking furnace which took up the entire basement, and it turns before it was converted to gas you actually had to shovel coal into it. I never knew that. See a coal truck would pull up to a chute in your basement window, then the coal would sluice down into a big pile on your basement floor. We then spent 10 minutes discussing why more didn’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning. So I guess washing dishes in the sink isn’t that bad. And I can lovingly admire and caress my smooth hands like they do in the Palmolive commercials.

But on the good side I just went to Mexico and had a nice birthday upon return. The birthday fell on a weekend – hence some partying with friends and a nice dinner at Table 6. And I got some new skis.

I was down in the Yucatan my Mom. I had originally planned on a few days in Playa del Carmen, (my favorite hip beach town,) a day seeing some Mayan ruins, then another few days in Merida. I’ve visited Playa del Carmen and Merida before, but for some reason underestimated the distance to Merida and the lengthy drive across the Yucatan. Rather than be rushed we decided to skip Merida this time to and take it a bit slower – while still spending a few days in the inland heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. A highlight of this visit was the Coba ruins, located in the dense jungle of the central Yucatan between Tulum and Valladolid.

The Alamo in Cancun gave us a Chevrolet “Comfort,” which by all appearances could have been the exact same one I rented in 2006, however time must have taken a toll because this car was a quite beleaguered. Not that I care about the body but it had some trouble starting too – which we didn’t find out for a few days later. Not fun when you’re in the jungle late afternoon and darkness is approaching.

Our first day we picked up the car with just under a quarter of a tank, which got us down to Playa del Carmen just as the needle was resting on empty. We settled into our digs, planning to visit the Mega in the morning to buy some gallons of water food to keep in the rooms and car. But the car wouldn’t start. I’m used to driving around on empty for miles and miles, but apparently some cars don’t offer such a generous reserve tank.

Fortunately we were in town, and the guy who works at the scuba diving place across the street lent us a portable gas tank. We were about to hail a cab, but a guy who hangs out there offered us a ride. (Turns out by night he’s a chef at a local Argentinean restaurant.) Being her first time in Mexico my mom questioned accepting a ride from a complete stranger – but when a stranger has his eight year old son in the front seat, and is known by the entire staff of a scuba shop and cafe on your block, he’s not really a stranger anymore.

So we got a first hand reminder about how friendly and welcoming locals are. Yes its because we were tourists too, and afterwards we compensated them both for their time and help, but its really nice to see people go out of their way to help others. And we saw these same folks for the remainder of the week, and ended up doing our scuba trip with their outfit. (Photos to come.)

I guess its always good to get a first day rapid reminder of how “differently” daily life progresses in Mexico. Different meaning incredibly slow. Most people find this out during their first restaurant experience, where its considered rude to bring a check before asking, or show any sort of hurry between meal courses. I’ve been to Mexico countless times but its still a culture shock. I’m an admittedly impatient person and like to get lots of stuff done, especially when traveling. It took us 20 minutes to fill up our jug at the Pemex, as they were installing Christmas decorations around the canopy. Then the pump wouldn’t start, then the attendant had to reboot the hand held credit card machine thing. I made up for time later that day getting a quicker than expected haircut at a local peluqueria. (Pictured above.)


Back in our neighborhood – I found this gas jug had no spout. Before my brain could reach the word or similar word for “spout” in Spanish the nice guy from the scuba shop had a knife and was fashioning one out of a plastic soda bottle. We all joked about the the ingenuity and resourcefulness. I wouldn’t have even thought of that, and probably would have gone back to the Pemex to buy a spout. Eventually I filled up the car, and we were on our way to Mega.

So we made some new local friends on our block and had an early morning adventure. And it could have been a worse first day if I had dropped my key on this sewer grate while opening the trunk.


2 thoughts on “Out of Gas”

  1. Great post, James. Vicarious travels can be almost as good as my own.

    While I was reading your Pemex tale, “Discount Tires” popped into my head. I actually had my winter tires put on about 10 days ago. I bought rims from DT a few years ago, which shortens the seasonal tire-change time and also makes it free, because this is considered “tire rotation.”

    Well, I noticed that one of the hubcaps had fallen off, so I went to DT y’day to buy a replacement. Two guys at tne podiums were helping other customers but mainly answering to phone and have lengthy conversations while six of us waited and waited and…

    After 30 minutes, I hustled to the podium at the “Who’s next?” call and explained my problem. “I’ll have to order you a set,” said the DT guy. Me: “A set!?!?!” He: “They only come in sets.” Me: “How much will this cost.” He: “Nothing. We lost it.” My new hubcap set should be in next week. He’ll call me.

    Felice navidad!

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