Tag Archives: police

The Uman Police Stop

On the outskirts of that large small town called Uman, to the south of Merida, there is a small retén, a police roadblock manned un-imposingly by one or two members of the Uman municipal police force, a formidable foe feared by organized crime, I’m sure.

On this occasion I was driving through Uman to Muna and the single skinny police official manning this post, who could not have been more than 18, made the up and down motions with his hands indicating that I should slow down and stop at his 4 poles and a piece of plywood shelter, complete with the economical and improvised flattened-tire-across-the-road speed bump.

I rolled down my window. It was a first for me to be stopped here in the many times I have driven this route, and I gave him a look that I hoped was inquisitive and at the same time supremely bored.

¿A donde se dirige?” was the official-sounding query that came out of his barely teen mouth. This is a common phrase from the Official State Police Handbook used by police officials and literally translates as “where are you headed?” They could just say “a donde vas” but that just doesn’t quite cut it in terms of official verbosity.

“Muna” I answer evenly.

EagerCop closes in to peek inside the vehicle and sees that I have two 12-packs of cervezas on the floor of the truck. His face lights up noticeably.

Muéstrame sus papeles” is his next salvo. I hand him my foreign driver’s license, setting down a couple of $100 peso bills on the seat beside me, and fish around for the vehicle’s tarjeta de circulacion and hand him that as well.

Debe tener una licencia de aqui” he says. “Si no, le pueden dar una infraccion.” I know I should have a Yucatan license but did not know I could get a fine for not having one. In fact I do have one, but I like to mess with the traffic cops, especially prepotente little pricks like this one, who see a gringo face and figure they’ll try a little shakedown (cars, SUV’s and trucks were and are continuing to drive past and around us as he does his thing).

Aha – lo dudo” I answer looking at him.

He looked thirstily down at the beer. I swear he licked his lips, but my memory might be playing tricks on me. The thought occurred to me that he might enjoy a cold beer.

“¿Cuantás ya se tomó?

How many did I drink? Presuming guilt is is straight from the pages of Canadian customs officials and any hope he might have had of me giving him a few cold ones just went out the window.

He’s already giving up on the driver’s license end and now wants to work the alcohol angle or so it seems so as his next question, when I answer that I haven’t had a drink and that I don’t drink and drive is “No se puede transportar alcohol, le pueden dar una infracción.”

Right. So now, in his little world where he is the almighty authority lording it over a supuesto dumb gringo, transporting alcohol is now illegal. I explain to him that this is beer for an event I am attending in Muna, that I haven’t had any and that it most certainly is legal to put your shopping in your car and move it from one place to another even if said shopping includes alcoholic beverages.

He half-hardheartedly looks at the license, the registration, the 100 peso bills, the beer.

Debe tener cuidado,” he says and hands me back the papers. I place the license along with the $100 peso bills in my shirt pocket and nod at him, biting my tongue to not tell him what a dick he is, and drive on to Muna.

 

 

 

 

The Story of an iPad, Lost and Found

Carting a huge load of merchandise with both hands, I struggled, iPad securely under my arm, to maneuver the key and open the trunk, having lost the use of the remote due to unexplained reasons resulting in shrugs from the técnico and the obvious and brilliant deduction that escaped his lips as he looked me in the eye: “no sirve“. The two giant bags of clothing deposited in the trunk, I climbed in the drivers seat of my trusty Impala and drove to my office.

It was only then that I realized in that adrenaline-shot-to-your-brain way that goes beyond the usual irritation I feel when I can’t find something, that I did not have with me my trusty iPad. A quick look through the car and trunk. Nothing. Maybe I left it at the store where I bought the clothing? Nothing. They even sent someone out into the parking lot to check but found nothing. A sinking feeling overcame me. I had set the iPad on the roof of my car and driven off. Obviously, it had fallen onto the street. Obviously, someone had picked it up. Obviously, it was gone for good. Right?

So I lost an iPad you are thinking. Poor me right? But it’s not prostate cancer, you think. Whatever. On that iPad I have all my bank account, credit card, supplier and other business info in the form of a nifty app called PocketMoney. I use GarageBand to create what I think are cool little riffs and the occasionally brilliant recording. Then there is all the email info, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, WhatsApp – all accounts semi-permanently open to avoid me having to log into everything every time. PayPal, Skype. That’s all going to need to be changed.

iTunes! The master account that controls everything. Have to change that real quick.

After making all the password and login changes I turned to the Find My iPhone App and found myself on the icloud.com web page. There, after signing in with my newly modified iTunes account info, is the button and I push it. The screen changes and a map of Merida shows up and promptly shows my iPhone’s location, next to me. Yes I have an iPhone. The iPad, however, is not found. “Offline” says the app.

Turns out I never got a SIM card for the iPad, thinking that Carlos Slim would not miss one more account paying for his museums and extravagant lifestyle; instead, I use the iPad exclusively with WiFi. Apparently, if my iPad was in the hands of someone, that someone had not exposed it to Wifi just yet. I waited.

The FindMyiPhone app has the option to

a) send a message to your lost iPad or iPhone

b) block your iPhone or iPad with a 4 digit numeric password

c) wipe your iPad or iPhone completely clean of all installed programs, all photos, everything.

I chose options (a) and (b). A message was sent (two actually) to whomever had it that could they please call me at such and such a number. Por favor. Y gracias. The number code would hopefully prevent snooping while the text message would help the potentially honest holder of my iPad find me.

Option (c) was a last resort. I wasn’t ready to wipe it just yet.

A week went by and little by little I was forcefully weaned off my iPad dependence. My biggest regret was having all my business info on it and my music. Everything else was replaceable. No sign from icloud.com. Apparently my iPad had either been hacked or smashed to smithereens when it fell off my car. I installed a new money tracking app on my iPhone called CashFlow that features a pig, presumably alluding to the piggy bank concept, in bright pink.

Then, about a week later, the following message showed up in my inbox: “Se ha encontrado tu iPad” I had to read it again just to be sure. Yes, there it was, it had been found, charged and connected to the internet via WiFi! Another email arrived on the heels of the first one, telling me that the message I had sent had been seen. Yet another email informed me that the iPad had been successfully blocked with my new numeric password. Excitement flowed through my veins and I waited for the phone call that was surely coming.

The phone did not ring.

After some time, I went back to iCloud and clicked on the found iPad icon, which was miraculously still online. A map of Merida appeared and I was able to determine that my iPad was in someones house, very close to Plaza Fiesta. Zooming in, I saw that the house was two houses in, across from a bunch of trees. Hoping that the satellite image was recent, and with no street view to go on, I drove as calmly as I could to the area, keeping an eye on the icloud.com map which was now displayed on my iPhone. No movement; the iPad was there, perhaps being hacked at this very moment!

When I arrived at what I surmised was the right place, I found two possibilities. A house, and next to it, a dental office.  I opted for the house.

All windows were open and looking in while tapping on the glass with a key, I saw my iPad right there on the kitchen or living room table, in the middle of the room not 3 meters from where I was standing. I mulled over the idea of slipping in and stealing back my iPad when a German Shepherd bounded into the room and jumped up against the glass, barking and trying to slip his head sideways through the windows to presumably take a chunk of me. Someone had seen me coming and had let him loose as a warning perhaps? A girl, about 17 or so, came into the room behind the dog who was now being quite noisy and ferocious. Being the great believer in the basic goodness of humankind I asked her if she could return to me the iPad which was sitting on her table as I was the owner and had seen over the internet that it was here. She said no, it belongs to a friend of my Dads and he wants to sell it to us. “You’ll have to talk to my Dad”

My response was straight out of an NBC sitcom. “Seriously?”

She nodded her head “And he’ll be back in about two hours” she added.

“I’ll wait” I replied and went to my car to settle in for a two hour wait.

Meanwhile, my secret weapon, aka the Better Half, whose faith in the honest intentions of possessors of strangers iPads was considerably less than mine, had flagged down an SPV patrol car to ask the nice policeman what one does in these situations. “You see” she explained to the policeman who obviously had time on his hands and was prepared to help out, “my husband is an extranjero and, well you know…”

The policeman did indeed know and showed up a minute later in front of the house. Notified by Better Half that the forces of the law were coming, I was there, waiting.

Meanwhile a boy had left the house and now returned with a man and a moment later, a second man showed up as well. Man A was the father mentioned above and Man B it turns out was a motorcycle messenger. They had come to negotiate with me but found themselves facing a patrol car, lights a-flashing and a stern looking cop alongside the silly gringo. Neighbors appeared from surrounding houses and talleres to watch this little drama playing out on their street.

The motorcycle messenger spoke first.

Y quien me va a dar mi recompensa?” he asked loudly. “Yo lo encontre!” He pointed at his own chest for added emphasis.

If there had been any doubt, his asking for a reward and saying he found it convinced the policeman that this was indeed the right house. I told the messenger to shut up and that I would make sure to give him his reward, but wanted to have my iPad in my hot little hands first. Man A, the father, came out of the house with the iPad and handed it to me saying only that he was charging it and had been looking for its owner. I could tell he was exhausted from all that looking.

Anticlimactically, the policeman took down everyone’s names, I tried out the iPad which was thankfully intact and undamaged and paid a small sum to the messenger to get him off my back and a larger sum to the policeman who said that this was the third iPad he had recovered thanks to the GPS function this month. It turns out that there was an open WiFi signal in the neighborhood and once the iPad had been connected to electricity, it had automatically connected to the internet, making the happy ending to this story possible.

Better Half and I went for a celebratory lunch, iPad securely under my arm.

*********************************************************************************

You can make sure your iPhone is locatable at http://icloud.com

If you have only WiFi on your Apple device, make sure that it’s settings allow it to connect to any available WiFi signal.

Make sure you have your Apple device registered through iTunes.

Download the FindMyiPhone app here.

Pat and Betty talk to Seidy (you decide where we are going next)

Hola Seidy!“, said Betty with a smile when Seidy opened the door for her. “Está doña Pati?” Seidy smiled a shy half smile which Betty took as a sign of affirmation, lowering her eyes and moving out of the way so Betty could come in. The blond woman followed her to the indoor patio where Pat was crouched among a group of plants, rooting around as if looking for something.

“Hi Pat! What are you doing?” Betty asked, curious.

“Betty!” Pat looked up from between some arecas “I’ve been having some problems with my garden; Manuel says it’s probably sayes and so I am trying to find their nest”.

Betty knew that Manuel was Pats’ part time gardener/mozo who went to the house a few times a week to tend to her gardening needs. Most of the time, she had noticed, Manuel spent his day staring dejectedly off into the distance with a hose in his hand, watering different parts of the ambitiously lush patio jungle Pat had created in the middle of her new home. From her own experience, she also knew that sayes – a Mayan word with a Spanish suffix; she had looked it up – were leaf-cutter ants who voraciously attacked anything green, establishing underground nests from which they emerged, usually at night, to cut leaves (hence their name) and carry them back to the colony. Pat wasn’t going to find anything at this time of the day.

Betty waited while Pat got up and they gave each other a little hug, Pat being careful not to get her dirty gloved hands on Betty’s clothes.

“Want something to drink?” she asked.

“Love it” Betty replied.

While Pat went to the kitchen to wash up and get Seidy to fix something to drink, Betty plopped down on the large metal-framed sofa-lounge with the thick cushions and looked around. The house, yet another small, once-forlorn Merida colonial that had been subject to an extensive reno by a recommended local architect who had redone everything in spite of officious protestations from the local INAH office whose mandate, it seemed, was to thwart any attempt at reconciling the city’s history with the present century’s need for such frivolous luxuries as plumbing and electricity, was all muted earth tones and natural surfaces. The old tapestry-style multicolored tile floor was the only splash of life in an otherwise somber ambiance, what with its exposed rock walls, wood accents and high ceilings. Far from depressing though, the effect was peaceful and relaxing and the profusion of green in its center, with sunlight streaming in from an overhead opening in the ceiling made one feel as if in an oasis, completely removed from the hustle and bustle just beyond the front door.

Pat came back and sat down, pulling her legs up under her. “Thanks for coming” she said, glancing at her friends face. She had called Betty that morning to have her come and help with her Seidy ‘situation’.

“No problem” Betty answered “have you talked to Seidy yet?”

They looked up and smiled politely, stopping the conversation that had just begun as Seidy appeared with a tray holding 2 glasses with ice and a glass pitcher of bright red jamaica. Pat had only recently discovered jamaica when Seidy had one day suggested the drink to accompany lunch, becoming quite enamored of it’s refreshing taste and, after reading something online about it’s apparent health benefits, made sure to always pick up a package of dried jamaica leaves when grocery shopping.

“Well?” continued Betty, after Seidy had set the tray down, served each of the women a glass and left, presumably back to the kitchen.

“You know, I haven’t really found a good moment to properly sit down and talk with her” replied Pat. “I just can’t seem to find the right time” She looked down at her hands, somewhat sheepishly.

“Oh Pat” said Betty knowingly “there’s just the two of you in this house most days; are you sure you’re not just putting this off?”

Pat nodded. “I guess so” she said. “I just can’t get started” She looked up at Betty “How do you do it? Talk to your muchacha I mean?”

“Watch and learn” said Betty, setting her glass down.  “Seidy!” she called out in an authoritative voice. Pat looked nervous.

Seidy came back from the kitchen and looked first at Pat, a questioning expression on her dark face, then at Betty. “Señora?” she asked.

Sientate, Seidy” said Betty and Pat motioned for her to sit next to her. Seidy sat down, the questioning look on her face turning into what might be described as defensive anticipation. She knew something was up.

Betty began. “Como te sientes, Seidy? Esta todo bien contigo?” Seidy nodded. “Como esta tu familia, todo bien?” Again, a nod. Pat, feeling she should ask something, broke in with “Y tu madre?

Bien” Seidy replied, looking from Betty to Pat and Betty again and finding this strange questioning rather disconcerting. Normally, her conversations with Doña Paty were of the Tarzan and Jane variety, with her patrona giving her instructions in what little Spanish she knew along with elaborate gestures in sign language, and Seidy answering with simple, short phrases that could be understood without difficulty by her new boss. She had worked only one other job before this one at the home of another woman, Doña Licha, a severe Yucatecan lady who had scolded and reprimanded her on everything; the washing, the cooking, the cleaning; none of it was being done correctly or quickly enough. It was hard if not impossible to please Doña Licha and after a month, she had told her mother that she was quitting. Her mother had scolded her as well, telling her not to be ungrateful and what else would a 15 year old with a grade 4 education expect to be doing, but Seidy had had enough and would not budge. A few weeks after that, her mother had found and recommended Seidy to, Doña Paty.

Tu padre esta trabajando?” the interrogation continued courtesy of Betty. When Seidy nodded yet again, Betty announced that que bueno; it was important that her father keep his job because jobs were hard to find in these troubled economic times and people should be grateful and…

Her well-meaning yet thoroughly patronizing monologue was suddenly interrupted by a loud knock at the front door.

Betty looked at Pat and Pat looked at Seidy and then all three stared for a moment at the door, no one saying a word. There was another knock, more insistent, almost desperate.

Seidy looked at Pat, got up and hurried off into the kitchen, leaving Betty and Pat sitting there.

ENDING A

“Well, aren’t you going to see who it is?” asked Betty a little impatiently. “Oh yes, of course” answered Pat. She got up and headed to the front door, not before there was yet another knock. Now, as she approached the closed door she could hear voices outside it; a man and a woman – from the sound of it they were arguing. “Pues CLARO que lo voy a ver” she heard the woman say in an angry voice.

“What is this?” Pat wondered, and opened the door, revealing what was most definitely an elderly Mayan couple; the woman wearing an hipil and the man in dark polyester pants folded up at the bottom, a long sleeved wine colored polyester shirt not tucked in and a baseball cap that said Tommy Halfmaker. Both were quite short and were wearing plastic sandals, revealing their calloused, brown feet.

Trabaja aqui una muchacha que se llama Seidy?” asked the woman, fixing her gaze on Pat while the man said nothing, looking past her into the house. The woman looked upset.

Si, pero…” Pat’s answer trailed off as the hipil-clad mestiza turned to the man with a triumphant look and then pushed past Pat and headed towards the central garden area, where Betty sat, jamaica in hand, staring at this sudden intrusion. As Pat turned, the man removed his baseball cap, muttered “con permiso” without making eye contact and followed the mestiza into the house.

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Who are these mestizos? What the heck is Tommy Halfmaker? Will the sayes return? Why is Pat such a wuss?

Will we go with Ending A? Your vote will decide!

Stay tuned for another installment of Ti’Ho Tales, coming sometime soon!

ENDING B

“Well, aren’t you going to see who it is?” asked Betty a little impatiently. “Oh yes, of course” answered Pat. She got up and headed to the front door, not before there was yet another knock. Now, as she approached the closed door she could hear a male voice outside; was he talking to someone or to himself?

She opened the door and before her stood a city policeman. A dark skinned, Mayan-featured member of Merida’s finest in a pale blue uniform smiled at her and she noticed he had a length of sisal rope in his hand. The rope was attached to a very familiar looking black dog. Obviously, this was Betty’s dog, Frijol. What was the policeman doing with him?

Buenos dias” said the oficial with a smile, revealing impossibly white teeth. Then, checking his watch, he corrected himself “Tardes – buenas tardes” he emphasized the tardes and again flashed a toothy smile while shaking his head at his own mistake.

Buenas tardes” Pat answered. She turned and called to Betty. “Betty, this policeman has your dog!” Betty sat up quickly, set her glass of jamaica on the table and rushed to the door.

Buenas tardes?” asked Betty stating what was both a salutation and a question. While her face was not unfriendly, her voice said hello and what the hell are you doing with my dog?

The policeman hadn’t stopped smiling. He was a happy policeman, this one. “Es suyo el perro?” he asked Betty. Betty now noticed that a rather sheepish Frijol was looking up at her, apparently trying to decide if it would be appropriate to wag his tail.

Si” responded Betty emphatically “es mi perro” Pat wondered if she should invite the policeman in.

He decided for her. “Puedo pasar?” he asked motioning to enter the house with his free hand.

Claro que si” answered Pat, stepping aside to allow the policeman into her home. As he entered Betty bent down to scratch Frijol behind the ears; he immediately decided that yes, it was alright to wag his tail and began to do so in such a violent manner that he threatened to knock over the macetas with their potted plants beside the door. He also licked Betty’s face happily. The policeman’s smile faded and he looked at Betty with a mixture of pity and distaste. “Estas gringas con sus perros” he thought to himself before regaining his composure and rearranging his face to once again highlight his Colgate smile.

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A policeman in your house – Pat what are you thinking? What is Frijol doing on the end of a rope?
Does Seidy put artificial sweetener in the jamaica?

Will we go with Ending B? Your vote will decide!

Stay tuned for another installment of Ti’Ho Tales, coming sometime soon!

The “Real Merida”

If there’s one thing that bothers me about idealistic folks coming to retire and/or live here semi-permanently, it’s those individuals that don’t visit northern Merida or go to a mall or eat at Carls Junior because it’s not, in their constrained and limited perception of what a modern Mexican city can be, the ‘real Merida’.

Maybe it’s because I have lived here for over 20 years and consider myself more local than foreign or maybe it’s because I am just a neurotic bastard, but this comment always manages to piss me off. It’s right up there with the ‘the children are so beautiful’ comment, which I have also had the pleasure of hearing on more than a dozen occasions and which also provokes from me the same, negative reaction. I feel like saying “of COURSE the children are beautiful – ALL children are beautiful, not just the brown ones that smile hopefully up at you, wealthy foreigner in shorts and sandals and flowery shirt.” It just seems so condescending, somehow.

Like the idea of a “real Merida.”

What is the real Merida? Are we (and I am speaking as a Yucatecan now) all supposed to run around in guayaberas and alpargatas and dance jaranas with trays of glasses on our adorable heads? Are we to eat only salbutes and panuchos and ‘typical’ food all week? The mistakenly romantic idea that in Merida time stands still and sushi, malls and Office Max are somehow contaminating someone’s vision of what the city should be is, again, condescending and frankly offensive.

I am motivated to write this little rant thanks to Beryl over at gorbman.com who just had a brush with the ‘real’ Merida; the Merida that most gringos don’t have to deal with and that, for the most part, lies just under the surface of the charming mess that is modern Mexico. You can read all about her brush with the ‘justice’ system in her fun account of what happened when she ran into Big Caesar (check out her photo to get a glimpse of Big Caesar)

Put your feet up, serve yourself a glass of typical cebada and enjoy a tale of one womans immersion into the ‘real’ Merida.