Having lived in Mexico long enough to know when to be cautious, I prefer to take time to protect myself against various irritating potential eventualities. Such was the case when I journeyed to a small Mexican city to visit my doctor and obtain prescription medicines. Now, this isn’t a tourist city in the least, more of an industrial one. But I knew the downtown area well and decided to park my large camper pickup truck in front of a trinket jewelry shop that I had recently done business with. The shop has one of those roll up fronts that expose the whole interior to the street.
I knew the street curb was painted white, allowing unrestricted parking. The parada for the city bus was at the corner, a hundred yards away. I still wanted to be courteous and ask the proprietress permission to park there. She said “yes” emphatically. just then I spotted a black and white transito pickup truck stopped across the boulevard. it had huge numbers 2472 on the side. I yelled Buenas Dias! and they acknowledged. “Is it OK to park my camioneta here?” “Yes of course,” the man at the wheel replied. I turned to the proprietress and she smiled. She knew I was carrying caution to the extreme.
So I proceeded to walk three blocks to la doctora‘s office, and wait patiently for over an hour . When I finally exited into a blast of tropical mid day heat announced the sun was overhead. I trudged to the farmacia. I was in luck, la farmacia had the made-in-Switzerland cardiac medication but at a price that nearly buckled the knees. Armed with the prescription I zigged and zagged from awning to tree shade spots, turned left on Ave. Reforma, only to see my truck gone. Disappeared.
The proprietress was in the middle of closing her shop for afternoon siesta. I arrived and she was near tears “I tried to tell him but he would not listen. He called for la grua on his radio and it came and lifted up your camioneta“. Telling him about the white curb and my permission did no good at all. Nobody around here likes him. He is known as cara de piña (pineapple face).
My rage was towering, but somehow a near miracle over rode my desire to see pineapple face dressed in a pair of cement overshoes. No, that would be too easy! I decided to screw this guy right into the ground. Legal and moral, yes. But this called for absolute perfection. A get-even that would become legend. I wanted that fucker to beg for mercy!
I ask the proprietress to wait un momentito. She agreed. I turned around and strode into the street and signaled a taxi. He stopped. I told him I needed a ride to la comandancia but first I needed him to act as a witness, a testigo. He parked his cab and joined the proprietress and myself. I asked the proprietress about her willingness and permission to park my truck just-so; she said yes. I asked her about my asking the driver of patrulla 2472 permission to park there and his authorization. The woman answered clearly and authoritatively.
“Vamanos a la comandancia!”
The driver agreed to be my second as I lodged my complaint. Of course this wasn’t going to be free. I waved a rather large banknote as emphasis. We parked and walked a long, hot two blocks to a locked door to la comandancia. Dammit, it was siesta! I pounded and pounded on the metal and glass door while the taxista winced. A chubby figure emerged from an adjoining office and low and behold, he was wearing an insignia on his lapels of four bars. I had disrupted la comida of el commandante himself. He was frowning. Whatever first words I was to speak they had to be short and effective. He unlocked the door and opened it a crack.
“I am a tourist. One of your officers stole my pickup truck and camper!”
That was enough of an “open sesame”. The door swung wide open and I noticed that the jaw of the taxi driver had nearly hit the floor.
I composed myself enough to almost calmly relate the story from start to finish. The proprietress, the patrulla, the conversations, it was a verbatim transcript good enough for a Grisham novel and every bit as detailed. Deposition quality…the taxista was my witness, and I could see he was getting-into-this. I told the commandante “I asked the señora this and she said that” the taxista nodded at the jefe. “I asked the driver of la patrulla 2472 for permission at exactly 11:45 AM and he explicitly said yes I could legally park there. The proprietress la señora is my witness”. By now the taxista was bobbing his head at the commandante like one of those animatronic beak dipping wooden bird gizmos. The commandante‘s face was turning beet red.
“And my cardiac medicine is on the front seat” I did indeed have the last of my old prescription medicine on the front seat.
That did it! The veins were standing out on the commandante‘s neck. Even though the office was air-conditioned he was sweating like a wild boar. I looked over at the taxista and gave him an eyebrow signal. Hell, even though he was clutching the banknote he wouldn’t have left at this point for all the pesos in pachuca! He inched up against the wall.
“Momentito” the top cop said, turned around and roared into the office from which he had emerged. A few seconds later the taxista and I jumped when we heard him bellow “Get that pinche David Gutierrez in here and I mean ahorita mismo!” I turned around and looked out the window at the lineup waiting to pay traffic tickets after siesta. They all looked stunned. The roar of el commandante had penetrated solid concrete. The taxista was now dabbing his eyes.
The post siesta desk officer unlocked the door, entered, relocked the door and went into the commandante‘s office. Three seconds later he re-emerged with a look of panic on his face. He dashed open the door and fled off to the left. Again I looked at the taxista who by now was not paying any attention to me. He was grasping his side and appeared to be choking.
A chunky cop with a swarthy complexion, and squinty eyes, appeared at the door. He knocked. The commandante emerged from his office and opened the door. There was murder in his eyes for all to see. Señor David Gutierrez, a foot cop had worked up such a sweat that his blouse and trousers had huge blotches on them.
The commandante started in on him…
“He had the señora‘s permission. To park there. She said you ignored her when she tried to protest.”
“He asked the sargento of patrulla 2472 if it was legal to park there, he said yes. La señora is also testigo to this. She also said that when you were told of that, you ignored her yet again”.
“Is it not a zona blanca para estacionamiento” where this man parked his camioneta?”
(David Gutierrez) “But commandante there is a parada de autobuses nearby”.
“Fool! Are you calling both la señora and my son-in-law the sargento liars?”
“Oh Madre Dios, of course not! Commandante there has been a horrible mistake!”
“Fix this! Damn You! And Fast! This has destroyed my comida! This has destroyed my day!”
The taxi driver was now seated in the chair I had vacated to make the discussion a troika. I sincerely came to the conclusion by power of observation that by now he was incapable of standing.
Cara de piña rushed into the commandante‘s office and grabbed an additional chair.
“Sit here please” he whined. “Everything is going to be arranged. Of course there is no multa. I am summoning an air conditioned taxi to take you to la corralon. Everything will be fine, you’ll see. I…..I, yes of course; I will have them wash your truck while all of this gets arranged. And please, the taxi, everything is paid for. You’ll see. This somehow was a horrible mistake”.
It tall turned out to be a four hour waste of time but the payback seemed to lessen my anger somewhat. But I learned a valuable lesson. Be polite, if you seek recompense for ill-treatment by the cops get witnesses, and do it up right. Three weeks later in a different taxi from a different company in a different part of the city…
“Aren’t you the gringo that put la chingada to los transitos?”