Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fear and loathing in Sam's Club, Oaxaca, Mexico

I visited Sam's Club, Oaxaca, today, just as I do nearly every Sunday. The wife had the car, the boys were heavy into a Discovery Channel vicious deadly Australian snake expose, so I walked alone over to the store. It's only about 4 blocks from my home, so no big deal there. I bought enough stuff to make walking back an impracticality, so I flagged down a taxi. Again, no big deal; they line up in front of the store's exit. The driver stopped, got out and opened his trunk and we began loading it with my goodies. I squatted down to pick up a case of yoghurt and, POOMP!, a car hit me right in the, er, but-tocks.

I jumped up, spun around, and some jerk in his personal car who had driven up to within 2 inches of me in the taxi lane, reserved for taxis, that's why they call it a taxi lane, had hit me as he then tried to steer his car around the taxi. To boot, he was yelling at me through the window of his car like it was my fault. I responded appropriately, I kicked the shit out of his right front fender. With that, he got out of the car and walked around it holding a fearsome looking weapon and shaking it at me. I don't know what it was, exactly. It had a large diameter wooden handle like a very big hammer and a strange looking head on it and I can only describe it as a mace - you know, like the Black Knight used against El Cid. It was ugly looking.

I said to myself, "Uh-oh," and began to circle to my right and chant under my breath, "Step inside the swing and take it away from him. Take it away from him but DON'T hit him with it. Step inside the swing and take it away from him. Take it away from him but DON'T hit him with it." I know myself well enough to know that if he in fact tried to hit me and I was able to successfully remove the mace from his grasp, I was going to bash him with it, for sure. By this time a crowd of about 30 people had gathered to watch the fun. I had been speaking Spanish but under the duress of impending battle I switched to English. "Don't even think about it, you m***** f***** or I'll shove that thing up your a**," says I. At this time I was referring to the weapon as "that thing", the mace ID came along later.

He had second thoughts and returned to his car, still cursing me in Spanish. He got back in the car and continued to try to force his car around the taxi, screaming at me all the while through the passenger side window. I was just hot enough and had just heard enough by that time to decide not to let bygones be bygones and aimed a powerful mule kick at the left rear fender of his car. I did some damage this time. I kicked an 18" diameter dent about 2-2.5" deep in the fender with my footprint smack in the middle of it. He stopped the car again, got out with his mace, and I thought, "This time we're on." No more chanting.

He walked around the car, looked at the fender and demanded of the taxi driver, who was frozen in time and space, The Matrix, to know if I had done that. I answered, "No, ya no," with as innocent a look as could be possible under the circumstances. I was wearing a University of Michigan ball cap, deep blue with all the gold (maize) trim, and a pair of Ray-Ban Aviators (real ones, not the 40 peso fakes you can buy here), so I imagine that the look I gave him was not too convincingly innocent. I thought, "Now we're on, for sure." But, no, he went back to his car, managed to maneuver it around the taxi and angled it back in front of the taxi, blocking my escape. He got out and began to pace around menacingly, waving his mace and yelling for a policeman.

Now I've got some potential problems here. The taxi driver knows I got hit by the car and I know I got hit by the car. I don't know how many other witnesses saw it happen, if any, but for sure the guy's got a humongous big dent in his car with my running shoe's shoeprint right in the middle of it, no witnesses required there. Damn!

The Sam's Club security director arrives. The first thing he did was chew ass with his own people for placing the taxi lane pylons too far out in the driveway in front of the store, which is probably why the mace-armed jerk drove into the taxi lane in the first place. Then the security director listened to the jerk's story and surveyed the damage to his otherwise pristine VW Passat. He then turned to me and I told him, "Ese señor me golpió con su coche," ("That asshole hit me with that piece of Nazi junk," very loosely translated). The jerk hotly denied it (the hitting me part).

At this time, my Guardian Angel straight from heaven arrived in the form of the previously frozen in time and space taxi driver. The driver, having just been reloaded from The Matrix, told the security chief that the jerk had indeed attempted to squash me like a cockroach, right there in the Sam's Club parking lot at about high noon and on a Sunday, yet. My Guardian Angel, the taxi driver if you've forgotten, further turned and pointed at another security officer standing there and said, "Y ese señor lo vió todo," ("And that guy saw it all and has said nothing, the weasely coward," again loosely translated).

The security chief turned to the jerk and told him that we could all wait for the police or we could go home and leave him in peace. Now, hitting a pedestrian, especially one who is possibly a rich American tourist, is a serious crime in Mexico. Much more serious than a little unauthorized custom bodywork. With 3 witnesses now arrayed against him, a crowd of onlookers now numbering about 300 and me beginning to limp around like I'd been hit at full speed by an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank, the jerk turned on his heel, got back in his car, and drove away.

Guardian Angel and I finished loading the taxi, got in and headed home. After we had unloaded everything with Mari Cruz, cook and nanny (my kid's, not mine, nanny, that is), I waited for her to go back into the house as this was an incident I preferred to keep between myself, my Guardian Angel, about 300 onlookers and a dozen or so Sam's Club security personnel. I asked my Guardian Angel, "Cuanto te debo?" ("How much do I owe you?") and he responded, "25 pesos." That's about $2.30 US at today's exchange rates. I handed him a twenty and a fifty. He looked at the money and started to give the fifty back to me. I said, "No, no, mi amigo. Gracias a ti por todo," ("No, no, my friend, in spite of the fact that I am obviously a cheap-assed Gringo who should have tipped you at least a hundred dollars US instead of 45 lousy Mexican pesos, thanks for everything," again, loosely translated.) He laughed, thanked me, and went on his way.

Whew! Note to self: Reduce daily caffeine intake and arm thyself with a Damascus steel broadsword before next visit to Sam's Club, Oaxaca, Mexico.


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