I barely remembered hitting the snooze button. The clock read 8:30 a.m., I was already late for work and I still had an hour drive ahead of me. I paced outside the elevator, stabbing the ‘down’ button repeatedly, hoping the doors would open sooner. Running through the lobby, I grabbed a slice of toast and a banana from the buffet and raced towards Barrios Altos.
I had memorised the route to Barrios Altos – the curves, the PEMEX gas stations, the orchards, and the vineyard in the desert, the distant mountains and the pitted spots of the road – during my first two weeks on the job in Mexico. A beaten up pick-up truck struggled to make the speed limit and there was no room to pass. I gripped the steering wheel tightly. I tried to pass once but an oncoming car forced me back behind the truck. Finally, the road ahead cleared so I passed illegally in the opposing lane and sped away. A flashing red lights appeared in the rear view mirror. La policía.
The A/C was busted in the old Suburban I drove; the heat grew near unbearable within seconds of pulling over. The police officer leaned against my door and peered at me over his aviator sunglasses. “Can I see your licence?”
I handed over my Ontario driver’s licence.
“Where is this from?” “Canada.” I said.
He shook his head. “This isn’t valid here.”
“Oh, wait a minute, here’s my International license.” I handed over the grey cardboard document I got at a CAA office in Canada, something that looked more as cash grab than an official document that would be accepted in other countries.
“Where are you going?” He handed both licences back to me.
“I’m working there.”
“Geophysical work, I’m a geologist”
“Do you have a work permit to be here?”
Uh-oh. I did not have one so I lied. “Um, sir, it’s in my passport at the hotel.” What would happen to me if they discovered I was working here illegally?
“Hmmm, do you have a permit for this equipment?”
“No. Do I need one?”
“Of course. I will have to confiscate it. You can pick it up from the police station after paying the fine.”
“What? Where’s that?”
He stared at me. Sweat glistened off his brow. “It’s far. I’m sure you won’t want to go there.”
“How do I get my stuff back?”
His impatience bore through his sunglasses. “You won’t have to pick it up if you pay the fine now.”
“Oh. That is easier. How much is it?”
“A hundred pesos.”
I handed over the hundred pesos, which was almost fifty bucks Canadian. The officer went to his car. As I waited for him to return with a receipt for my monthly expenses, he started his car and drove off. It took a minute before I realised I had just bribed a police officer.