By Teri Saya
My awareness and love of the Mexican culture is growing. I have had to adjust to my new environment through observation and quick reflexes. The theater, the mall, the grocery store, pretty much everything is within walking distance to our house here in Mexico.
I lived the last 17 years on the California coast in a tiny town where everyone knew each other and where the nearest large city was a two-hour drive one-way. Therefore, needless to say, I am thrilled to be able to step outside my door and just walk where I need to go.
Walking in Mexico is very different from walking in California. You really have to be aware of your surroundings or you could seriously hurt yourself! Cobblestones, cracked, uneven sidewalks, and sinkholes are just a few of the obstacles that you encounter. I see women wearing five inch, spiked heels here and wonder how they do it. It’s like they have a sixth sense and some amazing balance! They walk by in groups giggling, texting, or talking on the phone, not even looking in front of their feet and yet they seem to get through the gauntlet unscathed. The first time I was here, I immediately tripped over an uplifted sidewalk and nearly face-planted… I was wearing tennis shoes.
Standing at a crosswalk is an experience in itself. Buses fly by so quickly you can feel the suction of the air. People crowd in close, waiting for the little green man to show himself. California has a little green man light, but he stands still and sometimes gives no clue as to how many seconds you have before he becomes a red hand. However, in California you’re pretty safe because pedestrians have the right of way.
Here in Mexico, the little green guy is animated. He starts out walking, then walks a little faster, then runs which means you should run too because when he turns red and you’re still in the crosswalk, consider yourself a living piñata! Once traffic starts moving, most of them won’t stop for you, they just go around you and honk. Watch your toes because they get very close! Again, you really have to pay attention. I’ve been told the safest way to cross an intersection is in large groups. It’s why everyone bunches up at the corner and move as a herd when the little green man starts to walk.
Then there is an illegal practice in California that we call “Jay-walking.” It’s when you cross a busy street in the middle of the block where there is no crosswalk. Here it is expected and common. The street is usually four lanes. Two going one way and two going the other, and in the middle is an island, which is about 15 feet wide and runs down the length of the block. It usually has trees and grass, like a little park. Once you make it across the first two lanes, you get a respite on the “island” until there is an opening in traffic on the next two, and believe me, you want that opening to be wide. The cars move very fast!
The tricky part is once you’ve bought some groceries or things from the mall, you have to get yourself and the bags you’re carrying back across the four lane road. Timing is essential because now you’re slower with the extra weight.
Remember the old video game “Frogger?” Yeah, it’s kinda like that.