March 12, 2011


Bureaucracy and a little innuendo

It’s sweet that people’s first thought when they see me back on the island, so soon after having left last summer, is that I just couldn’t stay away— that I had to leave my road trip and come back for a visit. Some people even think I’ve moved back. And really: can you blame them? There’s no denying that Isla Mujeres is a form of paradise and as much grief as it has caused me over the years, it is also one of my favorite places on Earth. The sound of the sea lulled me to sleep last night; reassured me in the middle of the night, when I woke up with a terrible thirst; then whispered at me to wake up this morning. And the picture above is the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes.

But the real reason I came back to Mexico is to renew some paperwork for the business. I arrived this past Tuesday for a week-long stay. Our accountants had told me that everything we needed to do would take three days but that I should book seven, in case something went wrong. Something always goes wrong here.

They made my first appointment for me on Wednesday morning and I crossed the bay back to Cancun at 8:30am. By 1pm, we were finished. We had done all that we needed to do and I still had time to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist, eat some fish tacos, do a little shopping, have an eye test, order new glasses, and meet up with a friend back on the island, all before the sun had set.

Sara Jane, one of the two new managers who took over when I left, keeps calling it “the new Mexico.” Things move more quickly. Less stuff breaks (knock on wood). It’s just an easier place to get along.

Some things haven’t changed, though, like these seemingly arbitrary rules, whose logic is outside of my foreign brain’s comprehension. For example, I was talking to Emma, our accountant’s office assistant, who had been taking me around the city on my bureaucratic scavenger hunt, and she said that we needed to get a land line at the hotel, since all we have is a cell phone, and it was because when she was making these appointments for me through the government websites, it was mandatory that she enter a land line, or else she would not have been able to get a time slot for me and so in the end, she had had to use the accountant’s office number. It was important that we get our own land line, she said, because if the government ever had to call us for any reason, it was not going to help, if they got the accountant’s office instead, though I’m thinking it would actually be more helpful, because if anyone understands all this paperwork in question, it’s the accountants.

“It’s not like I’m going to be there on the other end of the line, when they call,” I said to Emma. “I won’t be there to fuc— No, that’s not the word.”

Awkward silence. Me staring at the sky, asking for help.

“To answer?” Emma prompted me. “You won’t be there to answer?”

“Yes. Sorry. My Spanish— that’s the word they use in Spain and I still forget that you can’t say it here.”

“But your Spanish is very good.”

“Except for that little detail,” I said.

Because another thing that will likely never change is my uncanny ability, no matter where I am, to turn the most ordinary and innocent sentence into something crude and filled with innuendo.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. SirenaSteve
    Mar 12 2011

    We love innuendo-filled sentences…

  2. Pep
    Mar 13 2011

    yeaa..It is not good to “COGER el telefono” in México, but it is even worst when you “coges un avión”. Funny false friend.


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