Chapter 13

Wow!  Eighty what degrees? Are you kidding? The heat off the tarmac is ferocious. I check my watch; it’s almost three. My stomach growls reminding me I missed lunch—breakfast, too, now that I think about it.

Not much of a greeting here at the airport. When you land in Hawaii I hear some beautiful girl puts a lei around your neck and gives you a kiss to welcome you to their island. You would think that Mexico would do something similar, with all the tourists that come here. Mexico should have their own twist to the greeting, like instead of a lei of flowers around your neck they could place a sombrero on your head, and when you bent over and closed your eyes for a kiss, the girl could give you a swift kick in the nuts.

I quickly cover the short distance from the plane to the airport, and pray the Mexicans have discovered—ahhh, air-conditioning.

I follow everyone else, they look like they know where they’re going. I think I have to go through Customs before I can enter Mexico. I wonder what this is going to be like. I’ve never been. . . that was it? Wasn’t I supposed to stop or anything? I look around and see a man in a tan uniform sitting at a table, barely feigning interest in the people passing by. Well that was anti-climactic. He barely looked at me. I guess I don’t fit the: drugs or weapons smuggling profile. I’m more the: young kid looking for his no good deadbeat dad, kind of profile. They probably get a lot of us down here. I bet someone could set up a little stand next to the customs desk—DNA testing, while you wait.

This is a very small, and old airport, and in no time I’m, back outside in the sweltering heat of the mid-day Mexican sun.

There’s got to be a bus stop around here.

I stand at the doorway for a second and take it all in. I’ve never been out of the United States before. I am in now another country. Yesterday I was at work, having a lousy day, but not in my scariest of nightmares would I have thought I would have ended up here, today, in Mexico of all places. My life got weird in a hurry.

I stand and look at the scene in front of me. The traffic is mesmerizing. It ebbs and flows, bobs and weaves, zigs and zags, all without turn signals to announce their intentions. I guess they drive by braille down here. All the cars are bunched together and synchronized like they’re in some kind of dance routine, and everyone is in colorful metal, glass and chrome costumes.

Feeling a drop of sweat run down my chest, I look for some shade. A bus stop would be nice. I could take the bus into town and look for my dad. I seriously doubt I will find him, but my parents got married in Guadalajara and my dad’s family lives around here somewhere. I don’t know when I’ll have this opportunity to find that deadbeat ever again.

The glare off the white buildings is harsh. Most people I see are wearing sunglasses. I should get some too. I’ll bet they’re pretty cheap down here.

Now, where is the bus stop? That looks kinda like a bus stop sign, but it’s all in Spanish, except for the numbers, so I really don’t know what it is.

I feel like such a tourist. If this is a bus stop and a bus does pick me up, I have no idea where it will take me. Everything around here is in Spanish.  I can’t tell which way I am facing but I think there are hotels in that direction.

 

 

I glance at my watch for the um-teenth time and see I’ve been standing here about five minutes, and I have yet to see a bus, just a few stragglers emptying out of the airport and disappearing every which way. Maybe waiting to be the last one out wasn’t such a smart idea. I bet everybody on the plane ran to get on the last bus before it left. Why doesn’t anyone announce these things? Instead of stating the obvious, “it’s eighty something degrees outside and very sunny,” which any fool is going to find out the moment they exit the plane, he should say, Hi this is your captain speaking, you have exactly two minutes to get to the bus stop before the last one leaves, so don’t worry about the plane stopping, just grab your things, open any emergency exit, and jump.

Two Mexican couples, come out of the airport and walk over to stand about fifty feet away from me, at the edge of the sidewalk and facing the oncoming traffic. They are all wearing light earth colors with white shirts and blouses. I’m at the bus stop, I think, so they must be waiting for family to come pick them up or something. There doesn’t appear to be an arrivals or departures staging area around here, or line of taxis waiting to take people away from the airport to the hotels. Maybe those got snapped up by the eager de-planers too.

The couples wave excitedly at a white Volkswagen van with the number fifteen written in black electrical tape on the front. It stops in front of them. The driver gets out and runs around the front of the van to open the door for them, then he runs back to the drivers side, gets back in, and they drive right past me. The passengers and I stare at each other as they drive by. I get a funny feeling something just happened.

Another couple comes out of the airport, talking and waving their hands excitedly. They walk over towards me, and they also stop about forty feet between me and the oncoming traffic. They are not there for long before they get into an old, small, green and yellow Volkswagen beetle, which I bet is a cab. Maybe that Volkswagon van was a cab too. Makes sense. Small slug-bug cab for a couple of passengers, and a big van for families or people with lots of luggage. They probably use Volkswagens for cabs like we used to use those old Checker cabs. I still don’t see any buses coming.

A small family carrying some luggage stands in about the same place as the last people did, and they appear to be looking for someone too. After a few minutes another white Volkswagen van with the number 12 in thick black tape pulls up and the driver runs around, opens the door and they get in. The driver runs back around to his side, gets in and pulls out into traffic and drives right on by—same as before. The driver is smiling and sweating as the van passes me. Still no bus. They should post a schedule with bus numbers and routes so people would know how long they should expect to wait like we do back home.

A gentle breeze carries the scent of Mexican food to me. If I walk in the direction of the wind I’m sure to find a restaurant. I don’t think there are any houses around here. Restaurant. I’m getting hungry. I didn’t eat real well in jail, and I slept most of the trip on the plane. Maybe I should look for some food first, and then start looking for my deadbeat dad.

A middle-aged woman with short black hair and large gold hoop earrings walks up and stands twenty feet in front of me. Her baggy tan colored pants and silky blue shirt wave lazily in the light breeze. The wind isn’t strong enough to actually cool anything down, it just gently blows hot air all over my body and makes me drowsy. I feel like I’m standing in front of a giant blow dryer with the setting turned to boredom. I need to get this search for my—that jerk going as soon as possible, and then find a way to get back home.

The woman in front of me waves and a small green and yellow Volkswagen beetle stops beside her.  This must be the slug-bug capitol of the world. The driver just reaches over and opens the door from inside to let the woman in. Still no bus in sight.

It’s way too hot to stay here in the sun all day. Maybe I should hire the next Volkswagen that comes by.

A young couple with their young daughter in hand, stops about the same place that last woman stood before getting her cab. They all seem to want to stand between me and the oncoming traffic. I think I’ll stand twenty feet in front of them and snag the next slug-bug that comes by. I’ll just pick up my bag, walk nonchalantly . . .

Mission accomplished. Now I just have to find the next yellow and green slug bug, or white van with a number on it and flag it down. It shouldn’t be long. I’ve seen three or four of them go by in the last few minutes.

A small family stops about twenty feet in front of me. It’s a young couple with a little daughter. . . hey! I look behind me and the family I snuck in front of is not where I left them. That is them. They are in front of me again.

They are a young family, not much older than me and their little black-haired girl, dressed in light blue dress like her mom, is staring right at me. Her parents are pretending I don’t exist. Well two can play—well four can play this game.

I slowly walk a long way around them so they don’t see me. . . La de dah, such a nice day for a pleasant stroll. . .

Oh shit. They must have eyes in the back of their heads. They are casually walking further up the sidewalk too. That’s not fair! I’ve been here way longer than them. I walk faster.

Busted, Mom just took a peek. Now they are walking faster too. My casual walk has now turned into a stiff-legged run. They begin to run, too, but the little girl is slowing them down. Ha!  Oh good they stopped. Victory is. . . Oh shit! I didn’t see that green beetle. Well, it’s theirs now. The Dad looks over at me with a cocky grin. Whatever.

I look back in the direction I came from and see I’ve run about a quarter mile in the opposite direction I want to go. My whole body is now covered in sweat.

I think I’ll just walk in the direction all of those Volkswagens went. Funny how nobody stands at the bus stop—wait! Maybe it’s not a bus stop. Maybe it’s just a trap so the locals can get taxis without having to wait in line behind the tourists.

Before I cross the street, I take one last look back to see if anyone is standing at the bus stop. Nope. Maybe it’s out of order. Or maybe the Mexicans haven’t quite figured out how bus stops work.

I pull out the picture from my back pocket and look at it as I walk. I might as well start searching for my so-called father, or anyone else in this photo. Mom said my so-called dad washed dishes and bussed tables, but you gotta think that in seventeen years he would have gotten a promotion. I wonder if he cooks. They do speak his language down here, so he could work the front of the house too. Maybe he is a waiter. I think searching the larger restaurants and hotels will be a great place to start. Then, if I don’t find him today, I’ll ask at the jail or police station, first thing in the morning. I bet he’s on a first name basis with everyone who works in the jail. One of his brothers is a cop. He’s in his uniform in this picture.

Here comes a white Volkswagen van. Just for kicks I wave at it. It pulls over and stops right in front of me. The driver runs around and opens the door. SCORE!  There’s a couple of other people already in here. Are we sharing? How does that work?

I get inside and the driver closes the door, and while he runs back to the driver’s side of the car, I take one last look to see if there’s a bus anywhere in sight. I wonder if bus stops are even needed, unless you are a bored Mexican, and want to laugh at the stupid tourists who stand around waiting next to any old metal pole that sticks out of the sidewalk.

“Hi, my friend, you need hotel?”

English, great. “Yes, I need a cheap hotel, some place near all the big hotels.”

“You need big hotel.”

I guess his English isn’t all that great. “Yes, I need a hotel in la middle of la. . . Guadalajara.”

“ Oh, yes, my friend. I got it for you, my friend.” He has a big smile that wrinkles his whole face. He is a thin middle-aged man and he’s wearing a light brown hat with a black band around it, and a white short-sleeved button down shirt with pockets on both sides, but something about him strikes me as odd. I can see he is also wearing a t-shirt underneath his shirt. In this heat? Are you kidding me? Where’s his mittens!

The other people in the back smile when I turn and look at them. Can I handle three days of this? I have to be back at work on Thursday. “Not too expensive,” I repeat.

“Ex-pen-sive.”

“No, NOT EX-PEN-SIVE-O.”

“Espensivo.”

Christ, I’m in a country of idiots. What was I thinking? I’ll never find my—ugh!

“Sure, sure my friend. I got it for you,” he says again with a big grin. I should have just walked. We merge into traffic, or more correctly, push everyone else out of the way. As we pass an old Mercedes-Benz, it does the same to us and we swerve a bit, and everyone next to us swerves too. I guess cars made in Germany have the right of way down here.

The city is dull and drab, with dirty white buildings that contrast sharply against the brightly colored signs advertising things in Spanish, mainly, but there are some in English scattered about too. This town stinks of cars and beans and every few blocks there is the sound of Mexican music playing loudly outside, as if it’s piped in from some central radio station for the amusement of the tourists.

I didn’t think the airport was this far from the center of town. The driver is pointing out all the landmarks and saying stuff in Spanish. I guess he used up all his English on, “I got it for you, my friend.”

The city is bigger than I had imagined. We seem to be in the downtown area now. Large stately hotels, bars, stores, a few big neon lights. many more signs in English, lots of old, small offices over appliance stores, apartments over liquor stores, shops over restaurants, cantinas over shops, shops over shops—very confused looking.

The driver stops in front of a large hotel then jumps out and runs around the van.  I guess he was going to open the door for me, but I’m halfway out already when he gets to me. The couple in the back look relieved. I pull out a couple of dollars and hand it to my new smiling friend.

“Thank you, my friend. Hasta luego.” he says and runs back to the drivers seat. I wave, and the old folks in the back of the van wave back, as the driver shoves his way back into traffic.

I look at the large, hotel in front of me. There’s a fountain in front and tall potted shrubs on either side of the front doors. I guess this is as good a place as any to start. I’m not sure what to expect, but I might as well look around for my good-for-nothing dad, and maybe see some of Mexico before I get a room and call Mom.

Wow! How am I going to explain all this? I barely believe what’s happened myself, yet here I am.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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