No doubt, 100% certain, that I prefer driving in Tijuana more than in the United States.
I admit, when I first moved here it was difficult to let go.
Hundreds of hours of rule-abiding, defensive-driving knowledge. I was never much of a rule follower but consequences, tickets and fines kind of beat it into you. It’s not too often you WANT to pay a $400 dollar fine for rushing through a yellow-red light in the Mira Mesa district of San Diego.
When I learned to drive in Mexico City, I had no idea what to expect. Fenders swiped so close to my vehicle at hair-splitting distances, it left me clenching my butt cheeks so I didn’t scream in fear. I hesitantly learned to drive on several road trips not realizing that one day, I would prefer the rules of the Mexican road. In fact one day, I would appreciate the unwritten rules born in the midst of chaos.
Lesson of the Day: How to Cut in Line at the Border
First I had to figure out how to be more aggressive.
This is not easy for everyone, but a very necessary skill to have if you will get anywhere down here. You have to know that people expect you to ask for what you want.
Many times, it’s not only necessary but obligatory to cut into a line at the border. If you don’t, then you might as well drive around for hours trying to find the end of the line when you don’t need to.
The unwritten rules of etiquette command that first, you need to slowly inch your way closer to the line to show respect. Let the other driver know you are there, but not expecting miracles (yet) and that you will wait patiently to as not insult him or her. Wait 2-3 minutes in front of that driver to show respect and then the next 2 drivers. Just breathe….and….wait. This is imperative.
Then, once 2-3 cars have seen that you are waiting patiently, inch your way a little more aggressively to show the next car that you do intend on cutting in. Give them a hand signal if possible to ask for permission but be 60% aggressive and only 40% passive. Many drivers will ignore you and look away. Don’t be insulted though…it’s not possible to be generous to everybody.
Go ahead and check their temperature. Push the front end of your car into the line to see if you can get the first wheel in there. If it becomes a game of chicken, back off. You and your bumper don’t need it that urgently. Just wait 2-3 more cars until someone finally takes your respectful persistence with stride. As soon as you have your next chance, try inching your way in front of another car. Eventually someone will let you in and make sure to send nice thoughts their way and pay it forward for the next person who needs help.
5 Essential Reasons I Love Driving in Mexico:
- I can park on the wrong side of the road when it makes sense (because sometimes it does)
- Stop signs are optional if there are no other cars present and police aren’t watching
- Judges laugh at you for trying to pay fines (story here)
- I can take care of traffic infractions in minutes instead 3-4 hours in a courtroom
- Stop lights change within minutes, so I don’t fall asleep while waiting
Disclaimer: this list isn’t legal advice and you should take into consideration that my strategy is never by-the-book. All rules are bendable if you are willing to take the risk and responsibility of your decision. Take caution where needed.
And last, remember your fellow citizens of Tijuana are watching which is why when they see a Gringa parking on the wrong side of the street, they are dumbfounded and disgusted at the same time. Many take pride in US laws and look at “bending” the rules as an indicator of poor character. We’d all love everyone to have more pride in our streets, laws and community so let’s set a good example while slightly bending those laws that we can’t bend on the other side.
Drive defensively, don’t be a jerk and we’ll all get there safely.