Long before I moved to Mexico, or dreamt of doing so, I read a book called “On Mexican Time.” It’s about a couple, a writer and an artist, who, like many, visited Mexico, fell in love, and ended up moving here.
The couple, on a whim, buys a charming but run-down hacienda in San Miguel de Allende and decide to bring it back to life. But they find as the days, weeks and months ensue, doing so amid the lánguido approach of craftsmen hired to chase their dream, becomes a bit, ahem, challenging.
It’s a concept all of us who love Mexico know – that nebulous idea of time here south of the border, which can mean different things, but generally, it merely means, “in due time…”
It might mean hoy (today; not likely), perhaps manaña (tomorrow; iffy), more likely la próxima semana (next week), or the week after next. Or more likely, the next…
I was reminded of that concept shortly after I moved to Vallarta and set out to get a post office box. After all, I wasn’t going to let me living at the end of a dirt road, high in the hills over the city, deter me from getting my beloved copies of The New Yorker, which my voracious reader-of-a-mom first gave me when I was just seventeen.
She’s now ninety, and still, each year, she renews my subscription to The New Yorker, providing us delightful fodder for our weekly phone conversations.
With Pitillal as the closest neighborhood to me with Correos, I went there to find and secure my buzón.
During the first visit we established that I wanted a postal box, and was told of the documents I would need to make that happen. Upon the second visit, I brought my 400 pesos and the requested documents that included a copy of my passport, my actual passport, and a Comprobante de Domicilio – proof of address from my landlord.
Me, being a silly American, thought that, let’s call him Juan, would process my paperwork, give me a key to my post office box, and todo bien – we’d be done. Silly American!
Instead, without explanation (he spoke decent English, I speak broken, very broken Español), he told me to come back “next week”…
And so I did. When I went back for week three, he’d processed my paperwork, and then weirdly – to an American anyway – asked me which number I wanted. I shrugged and chose 13, seeing as how I was born on a Friday the 13th, and it’s always been my “number.”
Juan went over to check – and yep, number 13 was available. Ah, but it had no lock. So, he told me, come back “next week.”
By now, approaching week number four, I start to giggle and begin to understand what “Mexican time” means. I go back for the fourth week in a row – now the postmistress and other employees start to recognize me and give me lovely, heartfelt “holas” and it makes me feel like I’m becoming part of the community. But oops, Juan had forgotten to move a lock to box No. 13. He slaps his head, and says – you guessed it – come back “next week”…