After living in Mexico for nearly nine months I’ve noticed some quirky things about this beautiful country. In all honesty these observations are probably not true about the entire country much in the same way that not every American uses the southern words “fixin’” and “y’aIl”, not every apartment in New York has a Sex in the City vibe, not every native of Tennessee makes moonshine, not all residents of LA are in the entertainment business, not every individual from Oregon exists on a diet of coffee and craft beer and not every Texan owns a firearm and rides a trusty steed. My desire is that this amusing generalization will simply lighten and hopefully brighten your day.
Quirky Thing #1 – Utility Bills
While living in the US we received online notification each month for payment of our basic utilities. A reminder would pop up via email letting us know the time had come to relinquish money for services rendered. With a few keystrokes bills were paid and we were off to living life for another thirty-ish days before another electronic interruption. In San Carlos, the process is slightly different.
Water bills are paid every month and payment for electricity services is expected bimonthly. Electronic reminders do not exist and there are no late fees if one absentmindedly forgets to make payment. Sounds positive, doesn’t it?
My favorite part of the entire process is the delivery method of these utility bills. Mexico still works in a system in which paper invoices delivered to the homes of customers. However the delivery of said paperwork does not arrive in an USPS left-hand drive postal truck with a convenient sliding door. Instead our statement arrives by means of a guy on foot, motorcycle or bicycle. Or so we’ve been told because we rarely see the stealthy courier. But on or about the 15th of the month our invoice magically appears. These bill distributors work directly for the government run State Water Commission, Comisión Estatal del Agua/CEA, or the *Basic Service Provider, Suministrador de Servicios Básicos/ CFE. *Notice the initials do not match the name of the company? The truth is, I have no idea why.
The utility companies are run by the government so they are always interested in finding ways to save money. Apparently a top means of savings is to sacrifice the use of envelopes. Instead of being encased in a protective paper closure in which your private information is shielded from the eyes of others, our bills are simply rolled into spirals and inserted into the top of our mailbox. One consistency is that the statements are always hanging partially out of the box in order to catch the attention of the homeowner. When I see these tiny rolls spread throughout the neighborhood they remind me of the scrolls held in the hands of, “Hear, Ye! Hear, Ye!” town criers of the past.
The most comical aspect of the operation is that not every house actually has a mailbox. Unlike the cookie cutter mailboxes in my former Flower Mound neighborhood or the creatively designed letter drops of other areas in the United States, each home in San Carlos decides if they want a mailbox, buzón. Regardless, the coiled parchments are distributed to the homes. Bills can be seen slid in door jams, crammed into the remains of long neglected buzóns or simply entangled in an available fence or gate.
My favorite however is the delivery at an obviously abandoned home in which the bills are placed under a rock. My guess is that particular house hasn’t had electricity or water in quite some time. Yet, the statements keep literally “piling up”.
It’s amazing that bills are ever paid in this town. One strong wind and there’s no telling what one owes to CEA or CFE. This in itself could pose a rather large problem given that in addition to no envelopes or late fees, there is also a zero tolerance policy for tardiness of payment. No cash for electricity…the following day you’ll be visited by a CFE employee yielding a pair of wire cutters. No payment for water and good-bye daily showers. Needless to say a recurring monthly reminder to lookout for delivery of utility invoices has managed to make the short list of high priority events on my calendar. While our water bill can be paid online, we are unable to take advantage of online payment for electricity until the late “Bruce” writes a letter on our behalf. So every other month we drag our statement down to the town of Guaymas where we can scan a UPC code into an ATM type machine and make payment via credit card or pesos. When making a payment with pesos, there is no option for change. Your account is simply credited for the next bi-monthly invoice. The payment process reminds me of the self-checkout line from my former days as a Target shopper with the twist of needing to whip out a Google Translate app in order to follow the step-by-step directions as a line patiently forms behind me. Goodness knows I need to ensure “Bruce” is not late on his payment to CFE.
Moving to Mexico altered my Google calendar with a southpaw swipe of sorts. No longer did it note meetings for work, book club with dear friends, shopping outings with my mom or sporting events to attend. This month COVID-19 took out art classes, friendly get togethers, kayaking opportunities, charity gatherings, beach events and Spanish lessons with a hearty uppercut and one-two punch. Social distancing and lack of a weekly routine requires me to check my calendar more often to determine if it’s Tuesday or Friday. My monthly “check the mailbox for utility bills” reminders stare back at me from the now desolate calendar. Those quirky reminders make me smile however because right beside them I find recurring holidays, anniversaries, important birthdays of family and friends as well as the next scheduled family ZOOM conference. While a docket of events may be lacking, my calendar reminds me that life does go on in its altered way. And it is certainly comforting to know that the most important aspects of life i.e. family, friends, and the comforts of home are still right there.
March 29, 2020
“Thirty years. Wow! That’s a long time when you consider it can be viewed as 3 decades or 360 months or 1,565 weeks or 10,958 days or 262,992 hours or 15,779,520 minutes or 946,771,200 seconds. But if you are playing the game of Scrabble, T-H-I-R-T-Y is only 12.”♡ – Happy 30th Birthday, Carson! We Love You, Mom & Dad
P.S. As I am completing this blog entry, a Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina, Mexican Navy, vehicle is slowly driving back and forth through my neighborhood sharing a Public Service Announcement. The warning is “inviting” people of San Carlos and Guaymas to remain in their casas for safety and to apply social distancing measures. The message is in Spanish, as it should be considering I am living in Mexico. The amusing oxymoron is that the announcement is literally being “BLASTED” via giant speakers atop a truck packed like a can of sardines with armed men. Perhaps this is just one more quirky incident to note about life in Mexico. No longer will important alerts arrive through email notices, electronic phone messages, Twitter tweets, app notifications, FaceBook posts or text messages as they do in the US. Instead PSAs will be a wee bit louder and personally delivered by young men in uniform. Aaaaaaah, Mexico.