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Not Better Not Worse…Just Different
I do understand how people unfamiliar with how things are done in Baja may have some instances of near insanity trying to figure it all out. Or at least trying to understand the why’s the why not’s and the where for’s. I’ve learned to stop the insanity and for the most part just go with the flow!
For example, several years ago I was in need of a set of tires for one of our vehicles. This is not a unit that is driven with much frequency or many miles, so I opted for a set of good used tires. I found exactly what I wanted, a price was agreed upon and so the tires were mounted on my rims. I noticed that they had not balanced the tires. I was told that they didn’t do that at most “tire shops”.
Okay, so where do I go get them balanced? The owner told me to go to the local alignment and balance shop which is about a half mile down the road. I half jokingly said “so you sell me the tires, you mount the tires, you put the tires on my vehicle and now I have to go to another shop to have them removed and balanced?”
“Yes!” he said as if that is the only way he’s ever considered doing it. It didn’t really upset me too much because, well, face it what else do I really have to do. So I think to myself, let’s see how this odyssey plays out. Shaking my head and laughing in disbelief I pay the man and head on down the road in pursuit of that elusive tire balancing machine.
Pulling into the shop I explained my needs and he said he could do it right away. He drove my car up on the lift and they begin removing the rims that were just installed at the nearby tire shop. The right rear however was installed so tightly, their air tools could not remove the nuts from the wheel. Okay, I can take it back over there to have them loosen up the nuts with their obviously steroid laced impact wrench. I excused myself for a bit to use the restroom. When I returned all four wheels are now back on the car. I asked them if they’d balanced the other three already and they said that no, they would balance them all at once. Again my head is shaking and my lips are smiling, albeit a little less than last time.
Arriving at the tire shop the owner comes over, I explain the situation and he says that yes, sometimes his guys go overboard on tightening the nuts. I asked him what I would have done if I would have had a flat and needed to change the tire. He again with a straight face just handed me a business card and said “you can always call us. We make house and roadside repairs.” Wow! What a deal. Tighten up the nuts so tight you can’t remove them without help from a professional with an impact wrench having drug issues. Suddenly all stops! What the he**? Oh a Taco truck has just pulled up outside. Not wanting to take a chance on getting trampled I step aside and let the herd pass. By the way…excellent tacos!
Back at the alignment and balance shop they successfully remove all four tires in attempt to balance them. All goes fine except for one that they can’t seem to balance. They work on it for a long while and finally explain that the tire is faulty. Okay, this time not smiling I tell them to put the tire back on and I make the now very familiar trek back to the tire shop. Explaining the situation the owner finally relents, finding another tire and does what I ask him to do with nary a smile on my face. I tried but it just would not come!
While putting the replacement tire on my car I remind them not to over tighten the lug nuts. This was not received with the greatest of appreciation. But to be honest with you I had pretty much lost the ability to smile and be nice.
Back to the alignment shop I go, knowing that the State Police or some other law enforcement agency was probably watching this obviously drug dealing American go back and forth all morning long between auto shops in an effort to thwart and confuse their keen sense of money and drug laundering going on between two rivals. Ah yes, finally a smile appears!
The alignment shop now has a stall with my name on it. I pull onto the rack and four workers jump on the task at hand. But not before that damned taco truck shows up. Is he following me? After a short break and a few tacos they get the job done in no time.
He even threw in a front end alignment for all my trouble. Perhaps the quivering lips and bloody red eyes had a role in his decision. Anyway, when they were finished he took it out for a test run. Upon returning he says that he thinks I have another bad tire that needs to be replaced. His timing was that of a talented comedian as a smile came across his lips when he said “just joking compadre! All is good!”
Four tires balanced and a front end alignment for $200.00 pesos. That’s about $14.00 US at the time. And yes, my smile returned!
Just remember, these things while perhaps not being correct or lacking common sense in our past lives are just how things are done here in our little village. The fact that we have to come to terms with is that we are probably not going to change a culture overnight; maybe we’ll never succeed in that effort. But we should be cautious in our attempts to change too much of what we might find silly or downright stupid lest we find we have replaced their culture and their values with what we all came here to try to escape. You know the old saying “we have found the enemy and it is us!”
So perhaps let my story be a backdrop next time you find yourself in what you might consider a catch 22 situation or something so plainly stupid or so idiotic you feel the need to lash out. Bite your tongue if you have to; not someone else’s. Smile if you can knowing that the sun will come up over our beautiful Sea of Cortez tomorrow morning and the waves will still be lapping at your toes as you plop your ass down in the sand of our special place.
Do yourself and everyone here a favor. Leave your emotional baggage at the border along with your predetermined ideas about how, based upon your previous life we should live out our lives here in our little piece of paradise. These people, the Mexican people, have been muddling through their lives long before we ever arrived and will probably continue after we are less than footnote in history.
For the most part the people that call this place home even for a short while love it for what it is. Is it perfect? No probably not. Part of our blessing is that this place is not for everyone, which is precisely why there is a north and south bound lane coming and going from our damn near perfect place.
Our Little Village by the Sea!
Dario de Baja