Let’s start here. In Mexico, there isn’t a driving test to get a licence. You pay $40, go to the transit office with a proof of address and an official ID and your licence is ready in about five minutes. It is very convenient. Until it’s not.
I discovered the licence thing during my first year here, when I would see people repeatedly put their right blinker on - and then turn left. Or vice versa. And the old saying landed, “They know not what they do.” Most people here in the city have never had to learn the rules of the road. For that reason, it is unsafe to cross the street on the crosswalk, because for many, the white lines are not understood.
There are also stoplight inconsistencies. You know the delay in lights where your light turns red, and then there are two-three seconds before the opposite light turns green. In Mexico City, we don’t have that delay. One light turns red WHILE the other turns green, and when it does turn green, the person behind you honks (in case you didn’t see it turn green). Add this to the fact that many people driving in Mexico believe that red lights are optional, and intersections take on a whole new meaning.
Many entrances to the highway do not have a space to enter and merge, you just enter the “slow” lane and hope the car behind you will slow down while you accelerate. Most traffic police are on their phones, or passing the “secret book” to the person they pulled over so that they can deposit bribe money into it to pay them off (confession - I have paid it three times). Some days a road is reversed in direction, and others it isn’t, motorcycles have no lane, the potholes are sometimes a foot deep, bus drivers truly believe that they have the right of way 100% of the time, the street signs are often twisted and you can’t tell which way is which, people often walk on the road instead of the sidewalk, there are streets where you’ve seen or heard of muggings so your guard goes up when you are stopped on them, people constantly stop/park in the right hand land of some of the cities busiest streets, and driving 5k can often take over an hour. This list is just a start.
Driving in Mexico, sometimes this means the difference between bread on the table and no bread on the table. In my case, I am becoming more-and-more aware of the privilege I live - and driving is a choice. When you move to a city with 21,000,000 bustling souls, sometimes you just gotta put in a podcast and be grateful you get to listen to the whole thing before you get home.
Bonus! Check out THIS amazing birds eye of the city!
Like it is - According to Vail
Traffic… that word.
You have no idea what that word does to my body and my stress level. My brow begins to furrow, my heart starts to race and unfortunately inappropriate words begin to fly out of my mouth.
The scene. It is Christmas time in Mexico City and I have had a long week at work. All I want is to get back to my house, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the weekend and the season. On my 9.2 km (5.7 miles) commute back that sunny December day, at about 2 hours in, I was at a complete standstill. I could see my building. It was almost taunting me as I sat there helpless. There was nothing I could do. I thought about abandoning my car…
This is how bad it gets.
However, as most things in life, the difficulties often teach us a lesson, if we will let them. What traffic has taught me is that it is all about how we manage and respond to situations that counts.
Sitting in that traffic jam that day, I was livid. Fuming.
I would like to think that if I were in that same traffic jam today, I would relax my shoulders and let go or let it be. It isn’t that I have reached a complete Zen state with traffic these days, but I usually chose to do one of two things:
Avoid it: I sold my car shortly after the Xmas car fiasco. Whether hitching a ride or taking an Uber, I let someone else take the wheel. That shift of not being in the driver’s seat has allowed me to relax and curse less.
Also, I love to walk. If at all possible, I walk instead of driving. In this city, it is usually a time saver. It is also a whole lot healthier.
This may seem extreme, but I also say no to moving far from my house during peak traffic hours. If I have to struggle for hours to get somewhere, I am not going to be in the mood to enjoy it.
Make it your playground, your adventure:
Now, there are some places I have to get to in my car. It is inevitable. I have to get in the car and I have to behind the wheel.
There are moments when I am stuck behind an endless sea of red taillights and my breath begins to quicken. That is when I decide how I want to play. I might call a friend, play a podcast or meditate (eyes wide open, listening to my breath). I try to remember that I will not get anywhere faster the angrier I get.
Big cities mean heart-crushing traffic. However, in Mexico City, like most cities, there is insanely amazing food, a plethora of art exhibits and events and incredible weather for you to enjoy it in.
So, strap on your seatbelt and get out and enjoy life. (I just suggest you do it on the weekend, with less traffic.)