Layover in Mexico City
Observations and whatnot
I’m writing this from Puerto Escondido on a writer’s retreat with members of the Foster community. I’m feeling grateful to be here with these amazing people and to be able to fully take in the experience. Ultimately, I could only be here thanks to my wife Allison, whom I’m most grateful for.
Below are some observations from my nearly six-hour layover the other day at the Mexico City International Airport. They’re mostly unedited and you shouldn’t expect any epiphanies or lessons or anything like that. I hope you have fun reading them and I hope you have a great weekend.
It’s far too early in the morning. I’m exiting the plane I boarded in San Francisco late last night and I’m groggily sauntering through the hallway toward the immigration intake area.
There are way too many guards here. Are they really guards, though? They all have walkie-talkies and bright-colored vests and some sort of official-looking patch on their uniforms. No guns, so perhaps not guards? Does gun equal guard? Not sure. I must’ve passed 15 of them on the walk from the gate to the immigration line. Or should I say human livestock pen? If I had to guess, there are at least a metric crap-ton of people in this room. The “line” zig-zags a dozen times, which makes it feel less line-like or more like twelve lines doubling back on each other, I suppose. When you view it from above, which is where I had to start because there was simply not enough room for everyone on the ground floor, like it’s so bad that they ran out of those retractable line divider things and just kinda have those guard-ish people running around herding us into makeshift additional lines while they bark some sort of directions in Spanish like we’re cattle who somehow speak Spanish (I don’t, but I obediently follow the herd), and now that I think about it, it sort of smells roughly like a cow farm, but really it looks like a giant mass of tired and annoyed people. Actually, I shouldn’t say that—they’re not all miserable-looking. There’s the tall AirPod Pros guy—even taller than my 6’ 1” frame, which is a bit rare in these types of scenarios—who’s clearly listening to a comedy podcast; the older guy with almost purely white hair reading Song of Solomon on paperback and deftly maneuvering his roller bag at the same time; the young curly-haired girl, I’d guess about three years old, who’s dancing to no music in particular; the tiny baby sound asleep in her mother’s arms, who I’m jealous of because I slept in fits and starts on the plane because I was constantly shifting as various body parts fell asleep because whatever position I was in cut off my circulation (tall guy problems).
And now, wait a second, whoa, it’s a miracle. One of the guard-esque guys who’s standing right next to me says, “Anyone in line with a Canadian or American passport?” I raise my hand and he unhooks one of the retractable dividers and points me in the direction of a line roughly 1/100th the length of the line I was just in. Wish I knew what I did to deserve this type of royal treatment and luck, although now I’m afraid that I used up a large chunk of my luck for this trip with this one. Me and this other more salt and pepper grey-haired guy—who has been having a heck of a time with a clearly much too heavy backpack, which has formed an almost perfectly round sweat stain on his back—exchange shrugs like “not sure why that happened, but we’ll take it.”
Almost exactly a minute later, I’m whipping out my passport for the immigration officer.
“Buenos dias,” I say.
She asks if I speak English only because, evidently, it’s obvious that I don’t speak Spanish despite having just said a Spanish word.
“Si. I mean, yes,” I stumble with a nervous laugh.
She says it’ll just be a minute.
“Gracias,” I say.
And that just about exhausts my knowledge of Spanish, but it’s buena enough for the immigration officer and she delivers the first stamp on my fresh new passport and scribbles something totally illegible on it.
“Thanks. Sorry, gracias,” I say, again.
I wish didn’t take German in high school.
More guard-like people. This time it’s two guys sitting on the ground leaning against the wall in the… men’s room? And they’re… sleeping? An odd locale for a siesta, although it is quieter in here. And it surprisingly smells better than the immigration pen.
I don’t know my gate yet, the info booth guy said they’ll post it an hour or so ahead of time and I still have three hours until my flight, so I head to the far end of the terminal, which I later learn is completely on the opposite side of the airport from my gate, and take a pretty much unsuccessful nap on a vinyl bench that has these low armrests that prevent me from fully laying down. A woman’s voice kept screeching over the loudspeaker occasionally and waking me up too. I could barely understand her, and not just the Spanish parts. I switched seats and the screeching continued, and also somehow the a/c was pumping right onto my face both times, so I decided to go get breakfast instead.
Apparently, enchiladas suizas is a breakfast dish here. I’m into it.
Standing in the jetway now. It has clear plexiglass walls which creates a mini greenhouse effect and I’m overdressed in my North Face jacket like I’m still in the airport in San Francisco. Looking outside, I see a military helicopter. It’s not a Huey like my dad used to fly, but of course I think of him and wish I could snap a pic of it and text him and ask what type of copter it is, but I can’t since he’s been gone nearly two years now.
A little over an hour later and I landed in Puerto Escondido.
Whoa, actual guards here. Sorry, I mean Guardia Nacional. With guns!
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I would immediately have a panic attack and pass out. In English.
I enjoyed this trip through your stream-of-consciousness experience. Very much like actually being at an airport, although I've never been to an international terminal. Closest I've gotten to this level of chaos were several layovers in D.C. at various times...