Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gringo Hazards

Relaxing on a green metal bench at sunset in the jardin, I watch as the gringos start to collect around me to take in the evenings festivities. Appearing out of the dark, seemingly frail and small, dried out and brown, like those final French fries you find at the bottom of the bag. Fragile but loud, they bark out in English, complaints about the drop in housing costs, and the details of their current maladies or injuries.

Sidewalk cavity
I ease away from the crowd recalling the story I heard about an American woman that was strolling down the sidewalk of some suburban street in Mexico city when she stepped on a manhole cover. Under her full weight, the cover flipped over like a coin and she instantly disappeared down into the subterranean sewer system. The cover then flipped back into place and the street scene appeared normal and quiet. The only clue that there was a problem was the muffled cries for help that emanated from under the metal plate.
Water line tripping hazards
True story? I don't know, but I've witnessed numerous ugly accidents and seen the resulting wounds all around me in the form of bruises, cuts, casts and looks of anguish on my fellow expatriates to convince me that it happens all the time and at any moment could happen to me. (This despite my belief that I've developed super powers of awareness).

 Mostly because we're old, out of touch with our surroundings and/or drunk, we trip, fall, clutch and eventually break something in our attempts at navigating an environment filled with obstacles in our pursuits of inexpensive pleasures. The real tragedy comes from our aging bodies which includes our lighter than air bird bones that can easily break at something as simple as the jerking response to the unexpected sound of a nearby fire cracker.

In the States the number one concern about Mexico is the fear of the drug cartels, but the real threat to those living here comes in the form of cobbles, holes, wires, window ledges, sewer grates, missing steps, traffic, startling noises, exposed electrical wires, heat stroke, dust, quad runners, all concrete in general, dog crap and of course bad plastic surgery.

So, in response and with a sense of civic duty, I would like to suggest a few helpful tips to the newly arrived, to avoid the pitfalls (so to speak) that are at every step you take on the typical street in San Miguel.

Concrete window ledge
First, keep an eye on the path at all times. This may sound condescending but it's surprising how often someone is looking off in the distance at some awe inspiring church steeple, pointing towards the horizon for his loved one to share in the appreciation, only to step into a hole the size of Carlos Slims' wallet. The ensuing fall snaps a leg bone on the way down into a spread eagle position on the street, and if you're lucky in your landing, you've missed the enormous pile of dog droppings.

Secondly, the sidewalks are narrow. Because of this, the buildings concrete window ledges stick out into the lane of travel. These typically are located at heights corresponding to vulnerable parts of the human anatomy. Contact points would be shin, hip, shoulder and head. Use extreme caution when recoiling from a painful dislocated shoulder, as this can lead to a serious head injury as you careen off the railroad-tie street pole that is positioned in the middle of the sidewalk. Be aware and stay in the center of the walkway and if necessary, when passing another pedestrian step into the street. 
A cutoff railroad-tie telephone pole

This brings me to point three. Listen to the traffic. As you walk, there will be engine noise, horns, tires on gravel, etc. They are important indicators of approaching danger. Always know where cars and people are in relationship to your position. Take into account these sounds as you watch for holes and ledges.

Finally, these warnings are just a sampling of the numerous possibilities that can preclude a crippling event. The important thing to take away from this advice is the need to heighten your sense of awareness for the external world. It's imperative to take in the sights, sounds and textures that are there to enable your ability to protect life and limb. Forget this lesson for a moment, and you're wrapped up in an electrical wire that juts from a wall, snaring you as you pass by, causing you to step simultaneously into a flooded pit and dog droppings, finally spinning you into the street where in all likelihood, a taxi is bearing down to finish you off.

Here is my third installment of the Roof Top videos in a series.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite is the eye level (yes, for me it's eye level!) concrete window sills. They win hands down.
    (unless it's raining, then it's the water spouts!)


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