Just click your heels

Deposit toilet paper in wastebasket.

“Wait! I have to go to the bathroom!” my son Adam shouted when we entered our room at the Days Inn Motel in Laredo, Texas. He pushed Alex and me aside and then ran to the bathroom. He immediately called us into the bathroom. “Watch,” he said as he dropped one sheet of toilet paper into the toilet and flushed it down. We watched it spiral downward until it vanished with a roar into the underworld of sewers.

My sons were glad to be back in the U.S. after spending two whole weeks in Mexico without all of the creature comforts to which they are accustomed here in Chicago. I explained that we would lack some of these American luxuries to them, but they were still unprepared mentally for what was in store for them in Mexico.

For example, I told them that in Mexico they only served Mexican food. They were surprised that even the McDonald’s and Burger King food tasted a little Mexican. I think going to the bathroom was activity that most struck home with them. They didn’t like the idea of putting the used toilet paper in the wastebasket next to the toilet instead of just flushing it down the way we do here.

Overall, I think they adapted well, but I don’t think they ever want to go to Mexico again!


My Mexican Passport

When I was a boy, my mother took us all the way to Mexico City by train from Chicago in 1965. We took one train to St. Louis where we spent the night sleeping on wooden benches until our next train departed for Laredo, Texas. In Laredo, we boarded a train toward Mexico City.

What I remember most about this visit to Mexico was my uncle’s fascination with American culture, particularly how important brushing one’s teeth was. He wanted to know what kind of toothpaste I used, what kind of toothbrush, how many times a day I brushed my teeth. He asked many other questions about our life in the U.S., but nothing mattered more to him than American dental hygiene!

Anyway, when we were packing to return to Chicago, my mother announced that my uncle was coming back with us. All he packed was a small handbag that was very light. When the train arrived in Laredo, my uncle showed his documents to the authorities and slipped them some money. Everything was fine until we arrived in St. Louis. Some important-looking people boarded the train and questioned my uncle who presented them with his documents. The authorities then asked my uncle to go with them. I never saw my uncle in the U.S. again. I remember carrying his little handbag home and wondering what my uncle had packed since it was so light.

When we got home, my mother took the handbag for safekeeping. I was never to touch it or look in it. We would give it to my uncle when he would finally arrive in Chicago. Every now and then when I would snoop around in my mother’s bedroom closet, I would see my uncle’s handbag, but I would never open it. One day, I couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. So I looked in the bag. All my uncle had packed for his trip to America was a toothbrush and toothpaste!