When I was in Mexico, I learned that I could trust all the Mexicans with whom I dealt. My first trip I was very cautious on the road since I traveled alone. When I met up with my family in Celaya, I realized that I didn’t really know anyone since I had not seem some of my relatives in more than twenty years and some had not even been born yet the last time I was in Celaya. However, I always felt I could trust all my family member without any reservations.
The only Mexicans that I never felt that I could never trust were in Nuevo Laredo when I crossed the border. They just looked like shady characters to me as they tried to hustle me into hiring them as a tour guide to get a visa and auto permit. Perhaps I was merely prejudging, but I didn’t feel safe around them. I just sped past them with my windows rolled up. There were some people who were outright begging there.
I had flown and taken the train on my previous trips, but I had never driven to Mexico before. I asked advice for my driving vacation from everyone who had ever driven to Mexico. The general consensus was to stay on the main toll roads even though I would have to pay tolls because these were the safest roads in Mexico. My cousin advised me not to drive after midnight. I wanted to ask her why not, but then I realized that I would feel safer not knowing why not. I didn’t drive after 10 pm. I had no idea what to expect.
For example, I didn’t know about la propina, the tip. When I needed gas for the first time in Mexico, I stopped at a Pemex gas station. I didn’t realize that was my only choice since the petroleum industry is a government monopoly. First of all, I was surprised to be greeted by an attendant who asked me what kind of gas and how much I wanted. I can’t even remember when I last saw a full-service gas station. I tried to pay with my credit card, but they only accepted cash. I didn’t realize I was supposed to tip him, so I didn’t. However, he never gave me any kind of signal that I was supposed to tip him and he never complained to me as I drove away. Later, my cousins explained that everyone in Mexico lives off tips. From then on, I tipped everyone. And generously, whenever possible.
One of the things I liked about Mexico was that car washes were available at many parking lots. When I’m in Chicago, my car is always dirty because I don’t like to go out of the way to go to the carwash. In Mexico, the carwash comes to you. I went with my sons and cousins to the mall in Celaya to see Kung Fu Panda. An elderly man approached me after I parked my car and asked me if I wanted my car washed. I asked him how much and he was reluctant to tell me. Finally, he told me thirty pesos. He was going to wash my car and then I would pay him when I returned. He actually trusted me. But I knew we would be in mall for a few hours and it was already 6:00 pm, so, he might not be there when we came out–unless he stayed just to wait for me. I asked my cousin if it was okay to pay him before we went in. I actually trusted the man at his work and knew my car would be washed when I returned. My cousin was noncommittal. So I paid and my car was washed when we returned about midnight. The man had been long gone by then.
I trusted everyone and I felt comfortable in Mexico. I had no reason to be distrustful of Mexicans in general. Once, when I stopped for at a tire shop for air, the attendant inflated my tires. He stood there for a moment without saying a word. I asked him how much I owed him. He said whatever I wanted to give him. I gave him twenty pesos and he seemed happy with that. Anyone who did anything for you accepted whatever amount you gave them and were always grateful for it. I was always afraid that they would overcharge me. In fact, I was so happy that they didn’t, so I would end up over-tipping them.