Full moon mode

I do love life in YUcatan, but does it seem to you, that lately… the drivers cruising our streets seem to be in “full moon mode.”  Is there more than the usual frantic horn blowing, blocking the view at intersections, tail-gating by buses and kamikaze  motorcyclists with a total disregard for human life? My book MAGIC MADE IN MEXICO, points out a few strategies you can use to cope with the daily “Demolition Derby”



D is for…DRIVING Are you up to it? How can you develop the nerves of steel you need?

My friend Theresa has suggested that the erratic driving in our city is perhaps due to the fact that few people take actual driving lessons. They learn from their parents, older siblings or from their friends. They also pick up all these people’s bad habits, and the problem compounds. They know how to operate a vehicle, but they don’t know—or care about—the rules of the road. I’m sure you’ve noticed people driving with small children on their laps… and talking on cell phones.

The drivers seem to take personal offense if anyone is ahead of them. They need to pass and get in front, no matter how perilous this may be. It’s as though they’d rather pile into you than let you emerge from your driveway, slip into a parking spot or change lanes.

This same friend says it is sheer folly to drive “if you’ve lost your nerve”. You do indeed need nerves of steel to navigate the roads of México. What to do if you don’t have them? Can you learn to drive à la mexicana?

If you do need to take to the streets, first be absolutely familiar with your car and how it will respond to your sudden moves. Practice in a less congested area to get the feel of the wheel. At all times be sure you know where you’re going. Be certain of what lane you should be in and watch out for anyone coming your way. His blinking signal light cannot be trusted…expect the unexpected! Next, hold your ground. If you let another car force you into a different lane, you might never get back. Keep your speed up; whatever the other cars are doing, you have to match them, or you’ll likely cause a pile-up. Finally, do not let your attention wander. Driving requires constant vigilance. You never know when a motorcycle will speed up on your right, a pedestrian will wander across the road or a giant bus will tailgate your rear! While driving, you will definitely have some unexpected “cultural moments”…

What if you commit a traffic violation and get stopped? Know the law—it’s very simple. You can obtain a copy of el Ley del Transito – The Rules of the Road – at a police station or where the driver’s license tests are given. Study it from cover to cover!

Following is some common-sense information that will help you to feel secure while driving; it will also keep you safe if you run into problems:

• It is important not to drive anywhere without a charged cell phone.

• You should program your insurance agent’s number into your cell phone contact list because if you get in trouble anywhere in México, he or she really will help you.

• What should you do if you’re in an accident and worse yet, someone is injured? Contrary to what you hear, you should not flee the scene.

• Stop, stay calm. Call your agent first! He will dispatch an adjuster (usually English-speaking) posthaste. The adjuster will then handle everything for you and explain what’s going on—step by step.

• Stay inside the car and quickly gather up all the valuables you may have there, especially documents like the car registration, insurance papers, etc.

• If you are alone, get on your cell phone again and ask a friend to come and help you, especially if it looks as though you will be detained—hopefully Spanish speaking in this case—for either medical or legal reasons.  If you’re being detained, give all your valuables and impor-tant documents to the person who comes to your aid. If you are hurt, it is even more urgent that you get someone you trust on the scene as quickly as possible.

• Don’t speak, don’t sign ANYTHING and stay put until the adjuster arrives.

I hope the preceding has not made you decide to never get behind the wheel! Really, it isn’t all scary bad news. Many drivers and police officers are very kind. I have been lost countless times and when I’ve rolled down my window to ask the person in the car next to me how to get to “such and such a place”, quite often, they smile and say, “Follow me; I’ll take you there!”

Once my car stalled in the rain, and a young fellow got off his motorcycle, and, all by himself, pushed my old VW to the side of the road! “I’ll call your husband for you, if you like,” he said. Another time when my car wouldn’t start, two patrolmen came to my aid. I had a trunk full of groceries and my two small children with me. They called for a tow truck, then loaded the shopping, the kids and me into their vehicle and delivered us home.

The Mexican government is just as helpful to drivers on the highways in México as are its citizens, and you will be pleasantly surprised should you experience car difficulties. There is a cadre of mechanics called los Ángeles Verdes – the Green Angels – who patrol the federal highways in green trucks to assist motorists who have a breakdown or other sort of calamity. If they cannot resolve the problem, they will call for backup. And, believe it or not, this service is completely free. The only thing that might be charged for is the gasoline furnished for those who run dry. If you do develop those nerves of steel, you’ll enjoy the independence and convenience that driving allows you. You’ll find yourself on roads leading to wonderful places and you’ll have enchanting days. You will be pleased with yourself!

D id for Driving is an excerpt from MAGIC MADE IN MEXICO. In the book you’ll read anecdotes and practical advice ‘from other letters of the Alphabet’, such as: H is for HeatL is for Love … and  T is for Tipping. The book is available at many independent book stores and online using this link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Magic+made+in+mexico You can also order directly from the publisher, who provides free shipping;. Contact Editorial Mazatlan at: mazbook@yahoo.com Theier website is http://www.editorialmazatlan.com On the website you’ll see some of the other titles they have published, such as Richard Grabman’s superb hitory of Mexico, GODS, GACHUPINES Y GRINGOS.



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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Full moon mode

  1. I worked in the field of public transit for many years, so I have trouble knowing exactly where to begin my many thoughts on this subject.

    But I will start here:

    One of the things I liked so much about Mérida, as opposed to DF or Cuernavaca, was that when lost, frustrated and such, I can usually find a way to pull off to the side of the road, read a map, calm down or do whatever I need to do. That is still true, MOST of the time in Mérida–but no longer always so.

    So–some quick hints:

    If you are planning a jaunt to an area of town with with you’re unfamiliar, consider a “dry run” on a Sunday morning, when traffic is so very light. In fact, sometimes I even just cruise around on these mornings, because it is so relatively easy.

    Treat every “close call” as an actual accident, from which you can learn. For instance, I’m now trying to follow the “three second rule” I once learned–namely, do not start to move after a green light, or after the car in front of you moves, for three seconds–so that you avoid hitting the occasional runner who is trying to get across the street at the last moment; AND so that, if the car ahead of you stops abruptly, you still have a safe stopping-distance preserved. (I myself have had two close-calls involving this scenario within the last 6 months, so….,)

    IF you get into an accident, and are at the scene with the other vehicle, police and such–lock your car. I did the same when I clipped my mirror against a bus, and the policeman looked at me with a touch of “what a good idea!” in his eyes. Why do this? Again, I learned this as a transit supervisor in the USA: when I’d pulled my truck over to assist with an accident, and became so involved with such, someone opened my truck and stole my purse. And I never noticed until it was too late.

    Finally–when going somewhere with which you are really unfamiliar–consider using a taxi. Taxi’s are still economical, especially considering the cost of gas in searching, SEARCHING for the right street, running the risk of turning wrongly onto a one-way street, and the overall frustration involved.

  2. Jody

    Speaking of Magic Made in México, Amazon just notified me that my book has FINALLY shipped. I am really looking forward to its arrival. Woo, hoo!

    Yes, I too find that my whole personality changes when I drive in México. What is that about? My testosterone index rises and I prepare for battle, ready to pass at high speed, and hold my lane against all honking trailer trucks and buses—as long as I am in the driver’s seat. When I’m a passenger, I am rarely calm inside, tending to grip the door handle a bit too tightly, letting out small yelps of fear (not so small according to the driver) as our car brushes shoulders a little too closely with “la muerte”. Thanks for the great tips on the inevitable accident. Very helpful, indeed.

  3. Some added thoughts.
    Never daydream while driving. Check your mirrors constantly. Always glance to you right before you move to the right lane even though you have checked your mirror. Develop eyes in the back of your head. Your gas pedal is your friend. Don’t hesitate to use it instead of the brake. In case of a mishap NEVER show fear, worry, or anger. Put on a mask of indifference and act like you are Bill Gates and your people will handle it. Be very polite to the police. Absolutely refuse to move your car until a policeman tells you to. Call everyone you know to come and help you, the more the better because the other party will be doing the same. The police will often side with the larger group. Act bored by it all. Let your friends do the arguing. Above all, remember that it isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a new experience for you. You will get over it and it will make you a better driver.

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