Patience is a virtue. In my new country I must exercise patience on a daily basis. Therefore I live among a virtuous people indeed. Logic 101.
I, however, have been found out. I stand revealed as one naked in my impatience, not virtuous at all. Previously I would have described myself as patient. More patient than most I might have said with a hint of a smirk. I might have felt a bit smugly righteous.
If “instant gratification” is the mantra of people in the United States, then “manana” is the mantra of the people of Mexico.
Mexico runs on a cash economy. Mention checks and I receive a raised brow with you-gotta-be-kidding look, a snicker or outright hee-haw laughter. I wanted to open a bank account here and use local-bank checks. It isn’t done. First, I have to have resided here a year before I may open a bank account. Every bill to pay, every purchase is by cash although credit card use is becoming more prevalent for larger items. Otherwise, grab your wallet and count the pesos. No overdrafts. And you know exactly how much money you have.
Cash society equates with long lines. I go to the bank to buy pesos, take a number and wait in line. When paying bills, which one also does in person, one moves through roped lanes and eventually arrives at the counter to shell out the pesos.
One develops a tolerance which becomes an “it-is-the-way-it-is” acceptance. Que, sera, sera.
Finally came the day I waited patiently in line and signed up for Internet. That took “forever,” but fortunately, I had my interpreter friend with me, because nobody spoke Ingles. Imagine me doing that task by sign language.
My Internet comes by way of Megacable, pronounced mega-caw-blay, emphasis on caw. (Spanish lesson for the day.) I bought a television, telephone and wireless Internet bundle for $399 pesos a month. Exchange rate that day was $12.40. Check that out!
I swore that I would never buy television service, but I did. In fact, last night Lupe and I sat together and watched the championship fights for Mexico. I had five pesos on the red trunks. Quite the rousing battle which ended in a tie. Re-match in January. Patience.
The Megacable lady told us hook-up could take from one to 12 days. I snorted because my neighbor Frank had been waiting 12 days for his service at that point. “And what time of day is best for you?” “Morning,” I answered.
Every day Frank and I met outside our doors to commiserate. No service yet. On day 19 for Frank, one week for me, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the Megacable truck pulled up and two young men knocked on Frank’s door. I grabbed my paperwork, tripped over my feet scrambling out my door. “Me too, Me too?” I poked my paperwork at them. One young man scanned my papers, pointed to Frank, then back to me.
At 6:30 they hooked me up to all the services, made sure the television worked and bounded out my door. Oh, by the way, they didn’t have the wireless modems with them; come back manana. Wireless or cable, what did I care, as long as I could use Internet. Gleefully I sat turned on my computer and prepared to send my article off to the newspaper, deadline tomorrow. I could not get Internet to work. Computer whiz I am not. I fiddled with this wire and that wire and this button and that clicker. Nothing. I checked my hook-ups and they seemed OK to me.
Fifteen minutes later Lupe walked in the door to be met by me, red-faced, sweating, teary and grinding my teeth.
“Your television works perfectly,” I snarled, “but my Internet does not work at all.” Instantly I felt ashamed. “I am so frustrated. Now I’ll have to go to a hotel or café in the morning to send my article and we’ll have to have the cable guys come back and ... "
“Calm down.” I hate it when someone says that to me. I told him the whole story. Lupe, with the speed of molasses on a cold, cold day, re-checked my cables and found a couple of loose connections, sorted and straightened and tied my spaghetti mess of wires into order, and, magically, I had Internet service. I thanked Lupe in a teensy-weensy voice.
“I wish you could have seen yourself when I walked in the door,” he said.
“Oh, I saw myself quite clearly, thank you,” I said, muttering a hundred mea culpas under my breath. I hate being exposed like that.
Ten days have passed and still no wireless. Maybe manana.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She found, upon her return, that things are a little different. Now, she's on a new journey. She has moved to Mexico. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)