I used the HSBC ATM at Soriana in Chapala, which is a big box store kind of like a small Walmart. For some ornery reason of its own, the ATM gobbled up my debit card. No money, no card. Nada. I did get a printed receipt that told me the machine had kept the card.
I knew I would never see that card again, but just in case – since the laws of reality operate a bit differently south of the border – I asked the guard who was standing nearby, interrupting a tender moment he was having with a pretty young woman. She flounced off, and he got a card from the nearby customer service desk and tried inserting it. The machine took it and gave it back. Good, at least my card was far enough into the guts of the machine that the next customer wasn’t going to receive it.
Next I called the Mexican 800 number that was on the ATM for such occasions. Speaking Spanish on my cell phone in the echoing space of the store, I talked to two different young men, both very nice but both speaking very rapidly. The gist of it was that I should call my bank in Colorado and void that card.
I did that once we got home, and this is another case of the “good bad luck” that Kelly and I seem to have. Next week we’re flying to San Francisco for a quick trip, Kelly to a professional conference on natural building, me to make a circuit of family members and old friends in the bay area. There will be time for my replacement card to catch up with me in the US.
Anyway, back at Soriana, Kelly turned up from doing other errands and he got money out with his card from a different ATM machine there. We did our shopping, loaded up the car, and paid the guy who had washed it.
Kelly turned the key. Nothing happened. We had gas. Our young friend Peter was due at our house pretty soon, and I hoped he wouldn’t have to wait on the street for us. (Peter’s blog on roaming around Mexico and other places just keeps getting better. Check it out if you haven’t. His recent post “Slowly, Mexico becomes a horror movie with a touch of farce” will curl your hair, guaranteed.)
The car washing guy and his buddy came over to trouble shoot with Kelly. They offered to give us a push and Kelly decided it was worth a try. They pushed us out of our spot and then forward towards a sloping exit. Cough, cough, and the car started. We were on our way.
What a relief! We were not going to spend hours in the hot Soriana parking lot.
We stopped in at a gas station to ask about buying batteries, as Kelly was pretty sure that was the problem. The guy there waved at an auto parts store across the street. The man at the store had the right battery and he and Kelly got it installed in no time, with pleasant chatting at no extra charge.
It worked. We got home before Peter.
Just that morning, a Mexican friend had commented that Americans are more community-minded than Mexicans. I do think there is some truth to that, but something about an emergency – small or large – seems to bring out the best in Mexicans!