And so it is that after 9 months of middle-class suffering in an oppressive super-religious pseudo-city and attending Spanish classes with even more oppressive super-religious students, two months of living in hostels in various parts of Caribbean Mexico and Belize, getting an iguana, falling madly in love, traveling to the majority of worthwhile cities serviced by the Autobuses de Oriente, and somehow fitting in Cambridge’s perversely intensive (though imminently enjoyable) month-long English teacher training course, I have reached enlightenment: I am now settled comfortably in an unpretentious southern central colonia (I’m still unclear about which one it is) in the Federal District of the Republic of Mexico, where I am teaching English as a Foreign Language to upper middle class adults. Let’s not ignore the fact that this employment acquisition means I was saved from having to make a heart-wrenching decision regarding my relationship, which, a month and a half ago was on the fast track to erotic emails, Skype sex and overall long-distance lameness. So I’m pretty fucking happy these days.
The Distrito Federal, let it be stated, is rather large. After living in France and traveling in Europe, I remained firm in my belief that New York was the most fabulous city in the entire world. Nowhere I’d been came close to equaling the culture, the speed, the diversity, the loudness! Paris is a magical place, but the hushed tones of voice get to you after a while. The pretty places lacked grit, the gritty places lacked true artistic spirit. When you’re at the top where can you go but down? I had thought. The answer was not down, precisely, but south. Mexico City has replaced New York as my favorite place in the world (thus bumping Barcelona down to a meager third place).
You’re probably thinking, has she been hitting the Jimador at a high-altitude for too long? Isn’t Mexico City super dangerous? Didn’t Fox News say that not only can you not drink the water but when you turn the faucet BLOOD comes streaming out? Firing squads on every corner! Modern day slavery! A policeless state on the verge of a civil war!
There is obviously some truth: The country’s infrastructure isn’t exactly parallel to that of, say, Switzerland, and the cartel-related massacres, though isolated and very specific, are nothing to diminish in gravity. But things aren’t always what they seem. I’m not saying DF is not dangerous, but rather that the trouble areas are not those that the average foreigner might thing. So, based on almost two months of extensive observation, I present to you one American girl’s list of the most terrifying things in Mexico City.
Everyone is Mexico City’s got the venta. Whenever you get on the subway there’s some man or woman shrieking about the sale they have for you. From wooden spoons to gum, from headlamps to notebooks, city maps, rain ponchos, lollipops, and MP3 CDs with 150 of the worst American songs from the 70s, you can do a year’s worth of shopping without ever leaving the train, and everything costs 10 pesos. If, for some reason, you feel compelled to leave the carriage, do not fear! In many stations there are “TODO A 3.50 PESOS” stores, in which everything costs, yes, 3.50 pesos, or about 30 cents. These stores are more-female oriented, with hair accessories, expired lip products, and general pink paraphernalia. It’s the rainy season, and nothing brightens a gray sky like some bright green earrings or a new adjustable headlamp. Even a minimum wage worker can treat themselves. Great system, no?
Consider the following: For my job, I’m on the metro at least four times a day if not more. One can easily spend 40 pesos per day without realizing. That’s 280 pesos per week which is 1120 pesos per month which adds up to a disturbing 13440 pesos per year, or roughly 1221 USD. Though obviously a worse case scenario, that’s still a lot of money on hair clips and sesame seed candy bars.
Erroneous Quotation Marks
At some point in history, some idiot decided that The Underline wasn’t emphatic enough for their taste. Rather than use a thicker marker or a larger font, they thought it prudent to put the thing needing emphasis in quotation marks. I suppose in theory it’s logical, as it draws the consumer’s eyes to the word. However, these tiny floating marks had already been assigned a grammatical function: when placed around a word, they sort of make the word not true. For example, if I were to correctly employ quotation marks, the following would be true: if Joe X is checked into a hotel with his “girlfriend,” she is a hooker. If his “girlfriend” is a “lady,” she’s a tranny hooker.
Thus, a sign that says COMIDA “RICA” means that the food is not delicious but rather disgusting; “CASERA” indicates that though they’re pawning it off as homemade it was really manufactured on an assembly line in some maquilladora in Tijuana; and when a restaurant is looking for “chicas bonitas” to work the night shift, I can only assume they need tranny hookers. I suppose it’s the thought that counts, and the fact that this is an epidemic means that you can usually trust something in quotes to be true. But still, people, just get a thicker marker. They’re only 3.50 pesos.
Cheap Hair Salons
I’m normally the biggest advocate of budget shopping; however, I do believe that there are certain times when you should open the wallet a bit wider. My list prior to moving to DF included bras (nothing worse than a ribcage full of cheap plastic), pens (Uniball or bust), and condoms (obvious). After a recent 50 pesos lock-lashing on a random street corner, I now add “haircuts” to my list of things worth splurging on. A middle-aged woman with a crooked scrappy smile may be an ideal gossip partner, but with a pair of scissors and a spray bottle of stagnant water she’s as criminal as they come. I stepped in yesterday for what I thought would be a quick, stylish trim, and stepped out looking like a mother fucking newsie from the 1800s. After simultaneously contemplating suicide and a career as a John Lennon impersonator, I grabbed 100 pesos and got righteously rectified in the Zona Rosa. Extra, extra – read all about it: If you want a cool coif, head for the homos. And drop a couple extra bucks.
Thieves (specifically Office Max)
I will be mugged at some point; it’s a rite of passage. Until then, the only bastard stealing my money is Office Max. Between the CELTA course and the new teaching gig, I have spent truckloads of cash at this stationary superstore. I hate it, and yet would be lost and supply-less without it.
Taxis think they’re in a real action video game and gun it through the deep puddles as you’re almost on the sidewalk safety zone, thus ensuring that unless you’re the Bubble Boy and wholly ensconced in a three-dimensional waterproof dome, you will end up soaked through and through, from your professional blazer to your professional pants to your goddamn professional underwear, a wet American street rat among the glass towers of Santa Fe.
The All-Female Subway Car
I understand the logic: Women do not feel safe riding the sardine-can of a subway with man hands “groping” (groping means purposefully molesting in this situation) their lady parts so the transit people designated the first car exclusively for women. In theory, it makes sense. Women feel less threatened, society is more civilized and general welfare of country at an all-time high. What this adjustment does not take into account is the fact that large groups of women are frightening. Have you ever been to a Victoria’s Secret on Black Friday? We would rather see that last turquoise, black-lace-ribbed 34B Wonder Bra ripped into smithereens than in the hands of that bitch who stole our spot in the parking lot. We’re a vengeful, vicious gender. Add to the equation rush hour frenzy, righteous old ladies, killer heels stepping on toes, PMS and way too many oversized purses. Top it off with the fact that while men will not push women and vice versa, women feel completely in the right shoving each other out of the way. I have taken to riding in the rape car and enjoying my space.