05 November 2009

Blocking the Driveway

We have come to a point now. I have made many rash observations about the Mexican people in this blog from the moment I crossed the border. I have now been in México long enough that I am encountering other phenomena that sometimes are entirely consistent with my first conclusions and sometimes are entirely inconsistent with my first conclusions.

Here is how I intend to proceed. As to those phenomena that are inconsistent with my first conclusions, particularly those that entirely disprove my first conclusions, I will simply ignore them. On the other hand I will tell you about those phenomena that appear to have proven me right. This is my own way of felicitously limiting my subjects.

The subject today is a different facet of the concept of respect. You will recall that I blathered on a bit about this subject and the related subject of pride not too long ago in the context of language. But first a bit of background.

Parking is a bit more chaotic here than what we are used to. If an American has doubts about whether he ought to park his car in a certain location, he will more than likely chose not to park there. If a Mexican has doubts about whether he ought to park his car in a certain location, he will exercise the benefit of that doubt in his own favor every time and park there. In part this has to do with possible consequences. For the Mexican whose intentions have somehow been adversely affected by the person who has done the parking, calling a policeman is the last thing that would occur to him for several reasons.

So that brings us to the subject of blocking driveways. However, “driveways” look different here. Living in México, as soon as you have the wherewithal, you would acquire four stone or concrete walls and sleep within those stone or concrete walls with everything you care about, including your motor vehicle. Preferably, you would also acquire two large dogs to sleep among your stuff inside those stone or concrete walls. Lastly, you might mortar in some broken beer bottles along the top of your stone or concrete walls or, better yet, string some concertina wire up there—depending on your neighborhood.

My own big door.

I live within four stone walls that enclose a very large area, and I sleep with my truck. My landlady and her sons, who also live within these stone walls, provide the dogs.

These people enjoy the wonderful benefit of living on the side of my street where parking is forbidden entirely. Still, they have signs. The signs are simply smaller.

Your front stone or concrete wall is going to abut the street. That will be the wall where the large door is located that allows you to pull your car into the courtyard. This is not a "garage door" in the sense that you understand that phrase. The length of your “driveway” is equivalent to the width of the sidewalk. These large doors can be art forms in México, but that is a subject for another day.

I know. No sign. But this house was newly renovated and not occupied yet.

Here arises the problem. Most of these “driveway” doors are active, used regularly. However, many of these “driveway” doors are not actively used and have been bolted shut for years. One can park in front of the latter with no problem obviously. Problems arise when one parks in front of the former. At this point please recall what I said about the Mexican who is doing the parking exercising the benefit of the doubt in his own favor.

So then. That brings us to what American street departments refer to as “signage.” Private sales of signs in México consist of only one sign. No Estacionarse. “No Parking.” These signs are often embellished with additional information like “Active Entrance” or “Automobile Entrance” or “Truck Exit” or the like. I am just telling you. If you have no sign on your large door abutting the street here, then people will park in front of it. It is that simple.

The big door between Carmen's Restaurant
and Café del Sol

Finally, I have come to my point. Many times, probably in frustration, a Mexican large door owner will do his own embellishment of his “No Parking” sign. The one above is an example of my favorite embellishment because of what has been painted at the bottom. Respeteme. “Respect me.” The verb “to respect” in the third person imperative. To my way of thinking, that is quintessentially Latin. No American would add that to his “No Parking” sign. Respeteme is a very common embellishment to a “No Parking” sign here though.

Let me amend that a bit. I can imagine an Italian-American in Chicago, not too removed from the old country, adding “Show Some Respect” to his “No Parking” sign. But would that not be an indication to us that he is not entirely “assimilated?”

And what is the typical American's reaction when someone has blocked his driveway? “This dumb bastard has blocked my driveway!” The person who has done the parking is a thoughtless moron. That is all. No American would frame the issue in terms of respect.

Moreover, never in México have I seen a "No Parking" sign with an embellishment to the effect that your car will be towed away if you park there. Not ever. Never. Not even once have I seen that.

The Mexican does not consider the person who has blocked his driveway to be a moron. He understands the benefit of the doubt at work in the act of parking a car here. (Notice the addition of por favor above. "Please.") In other words, he maintains his respect for the person who has done the parking, but at the same time he is offended because that person has shorted him on the respect that is due back.

I may be overstating all this a bit, but not by far. Do you understand the distinction that I am making?


Four Dinners said...

I have got to meet a Mexican.

I always give myself the benifit of the doubt when I park...as I'm adopted maybe...no...I can't be

That was well written too old bean. Made me chuckle anyroad.

Señor Steve said...

Four Dinners. A man after my own heart. But do they have tow trucks in Great Britain? Is your vehicle not towed away occasionally having been parked by you in some unfortunate location?

Up north in the bad old days, my vehicle was towed away more than once. I certainly cannot give you a precise number of times on that. However, I can tell you that on every one of those occasions it was a very expensive situation to remedy.

Candy Minx said...

I must be Mexican. Ask Mr. Anchovy, he's driven with me heh heh.

I must go back and read your post about language...I seem to have missed that one...