I am not a patient person. I was taught to be on time, work fast and efficiently, and get out.
Then I went to Mexico City for three months.
Long lines for tortillas, thousands packed into standing-room-only stadiums, toe-stomping shoulder to shoulder at the local Tianguis markets, pushing to get on commuter trains, walking in a sea of hundreds in the metro, waiting for hours in rush hour traffic; there really is no avoiding the delays.
But there is something very tranquil about the way Mexicans handle these inconveniences, beyond our control. Not only patience, I would consider it acceptance and compassion for others, that I’ve noticed in so many situations:
Movies: Kids are welcome to scream and cry and everyone knows that they are a part of life…completely normal behavior for a child and most people are happy to include them in the community. In Mexico family is important and a high value is placed on families being together.
Refunds: If your meal is done the wrong way, you are still expected to pay for it in Mexico. Don’t expect a free meal just because it was not to your liking. Please don’t act like a disgruntled American, it just makes us look bad. They made food for you, it cost them money, at a minimum they will apologize for the mistake but just like lawyer fees, expect to pay fairly for the services rendered. I find this refreshing because for too long now, customers in the U.S. have become too demanding in their expectations. Fair is fair, pay for the service and if it was really that bad, you have the right to never go back.
Taxis: I have never seen so many people pile into a taxi on a hot sweltering day, and still be smiling by the end of the trip. They never complain of what we would consider “inconveniences”. It’s just not in their nature to complain, even if you are hitting your head on the roof of the vehicle and bouncing around like a lottery ball. Be thankful.
Business Hours: You pull up to the dry cleaner only to find the doors are locked at 10:00 on a Monday. I used to blow up about this until I found my Tijuana Zen. I left my demands of strict adherence to business hours long ago and am now quite supportive that business owners have the option to close shop for urgent family issues, on occasion. I will remain a loyal customer and come back tomorrow. Consider it my contribution to the community and to your family needs. I hope if I ever need to close shop temporarily, you will understand too.
Beggers: If you have extra change to spare, there are plenty of people who could use it. The old, wise but worn woman on the corner is not just begging for money, that is her full-time job and she does it consistently, with patience and grace. That is a peso or two well-earned in my opinion. But when I was in the U.S. it was “get a job” and “stop expecting handouts” and little patience for those who struggled in the system. Now as a Mexico resident, I find warmth in the way the community hands out coins for making an effort.
Border Lines: What? Who is perfect!?!…expect horns to blare while waiting in line at the border. Can you blame them?
Granted, Mexico City is much more “Mexico” than Tijuana. Slowly but surely, U.S. customs are seeping into the Tijuana culture. And for that, I’m sad that one day children won’t be as forgiven, tempers will flare with crowding and I eventually customers will become more demanding.
Until then, I will enjoy what acceptance, compassion and forgiveness I can find in the local community.
A little Mexico, a little U.S.A.