Tijuana two-step

August 29, 2019

Oh, Mexico

My first run for the border


It sounds so simple

I just got to go…

–James Taylor

The clue that my calculations on the day were significantly off was when we walked passed a parking lot snug against the San Ysidro border station. Carol wanted to show me Mexico, one country I had never visited before. “I took the kids to Tijuana when they were young, and I had dental work done there once.”

So why I didn’t simply turn all the logistics over to Carol will remain one of those mysteries that crop up whenever women try to explain men.

Lunch on the terrace with striped donkey concession below. Best to know your peso to dollar conversion

Carol thought driving to the border would be fast and convenient. I believed taking a tram from San Diego’s Old Town directly to the border would avoid traffic and congestion. The fee to park at the border was $8, and would have taken 25 minutes to drive there. The tram tickets and parking fee in Old Town totaled $34, and the transit time was almost an hour and a half. In other words, four times as expensive and more than three times as long as Carol’s suggestion. Still, she left me in charge of things like changing money after we’d crossed into Tijuana at lunchtime.

The place where we wanted to eat did not accept credit cards, so I had to hit an ATM first. I’m usually pretty good at doing exchange rates in my head, but as I was already experiencing a significant deficit in brain function when it came to logistics for the day, my interaction with the cash machine should have been doomed before I entered my PIN. It was, but I think it might have saved what I think might have been a lunch bill scam.

I told Carol not to make eye contact, but they came anyway

When I checked the conversion on my phone, the 500 pesos I thought represented $100 turned out to be just $25. When I asked for the bill, the waiter presented it in both US dollars ($25) and in pesos(1000). When I handed him the 500 pesos, and said we’d have to pay the rest in dollars, he retreated to his calculator and confirmed what I had earlier figured out on mine. The 500 hundred pesos covered the bill entirely.

“But, supposing I did have the 1000 pesos in the first place?” I asked Carol, as we left the restaurant. She nodded her understanding. Then, the waiter ran us down in the street, and showed us where they had failed to charge us for the second round of lemonades. We paid him in dollars, and I was somewhat comforted that their calculation skills, while matching mine, perhaps did not rise to the level of scam after all.

The San Diego Trolley. Not my best day on public transport

What did amount to a scam was how long it took us to get back to our car in Old Town – two hours including the time the tram broke down – as opposed to that 25 minute drive from the border to same. As we drove home northbound on the I-5, we observed the Mother of all traffic jams forming on the southbound side where we’d been that morning. Later, we calculated the bumper to bumper jam was almost 22 miles long. Based on a later traffic report, those people were still held up for a shorter amount of time than it took us to get back to our car from Tijuana.

We still feel we had the better time if it, if for no other reason than observing the – how shall I politely put this – biological diversity of our fellow tram riders that afternoon.

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