The evening wall


AS I STEPPED through the Hacienda’s steel door from the street yesterday evening, I spotted this.

The day was fading, and the sky was gray. It was about to rain, which it should not do in mid-November because it’s simply not right. We’ve had enough by now.

Speaking of water, I was returning from paying our water bill, which I do every four months. Most people pay monthly, but I pay four months at a whack just for convenience.

The water office is a block and a half away in a corner building on the plaza. The building is likely about four centuries old. The office is only open the last two weeks of each month.

A woman waits in there at a paint-flaking desk where sits a computer. I don’t know what the computer is for because she does everything by hand on sheets of paper.

The monthly charge for municipal water is 50 pesos, which is about $2.50 U.S. bucks these days. Water usage is not metered. It’s a flat rate for everyone.

And it’s the honor system. Nobody gets a bill.

The woman writes a receipt by hand from a receipt book she likely purchased in a stationary store. I leave 200 pesos for the four months, walk out the door and head home.

Opening the steel door to the Hacienda, I look up at the Alamo Wall, the monkey and the swan. It’s a nice evening in spite of the threatening rain, which did fall later.

8 thoughts on “The evening wall

  1. Paying bills used to be the high point of my life in Puerto Escondido, in the City by the Lake, not so much.

    I would wait in line and watch people argue that they had paid bills left owing, ask how much they had to pay to keep from having services shut off, etc. At the electric company, there was a machine where you inserted your bill, then fed the money into the slot, and it gave change. Even had a separate door for after-hours service, which was always locked. Oh yes, you couldn’t use the machine yourself, there was someone hired to do it, which meant that you still had to wait while someone argued about their bill with the girl who operated the self-serve machine. Another time I can expound on paying the bill at the telephone office.

    In the condo where we lived, it was the two gringos and one Mexican who had to pay for the common electricity bill, and regularly disconnect the jumper cables of occupants who tapped into the common meter, and the meters of anyone who paid their bills. The water company came around monthly and disabled the supply of holdouts. It was a regular sight to see the three boys downstairs running a bucket brigade from the underground cistern to the 500-liter tinaco in their service courtyard. Didn’t stop Daddy from consuming copious amounts of beer and going on a tirade every Sunday though. Aah, the joys of communal living in Mexico.


    1. Kris: Well, isn’t this odd? My experiences with bill-paying over the past 16-plus years here are 180 degrees different from yours.

      First off, my water. There is usually no more than one person in the office when I arrive. Yesterday, there was no one. I was in and out in five minutes.

      Light bill: Nowadays, it’s just deducted automatically from my bank account. I do squat. Before, however, I did use the automated machine in the lobby of the CFE at times, and it was easy. The person who sometimes is there to help is optional. One does it oneself. Maybe she just took a look at you and concluded you were a clueless Gringo (not knowing how to differentiate between a Gringo and a Canuck) and stepped right in. When there was a line, it was usually just one person ahead of me. When I did not pay that way, I just paid at the grocery store a couple of blocks away, rapidly.

      When I need to fill my propane tank, I phone, and they come the same day. I pay cash on the spot.

      Maybe things have just improved since you were down here. Surely, that’s it.


      1. This was before online payment was available, and my guess is that the girl was there due to the high percentage of people who were illiterate and unfamiliar with ATM style machines. Granted, you could pay the water bill a year in advance, but I liked the entertainment of people watching.

        The telephone company had an armed guard (standard), and I would stand and talk to him. Of course, since all payments were cash, they accumulated a lot of it. One day, the armored truck arrived. He excused himself to put bullets in his pistol. The guy only loaded his weapon for pickups, any other time, the money was on its own.

        Then there’s the story of when the bank moved, the alarm went off by accident, and the police went to the vacant building where it used to be.

        Endless entertainment.


  2. I enjoy hearing other people’s bill-paying stories. In Barra de Navidad, I pay annually. I really do not know if that is the requirement, but that is what I do. Our drills are similar. A pleasant middle-aged woman takes the money, has me write my name in her ledger, and then types out a receipt on a typewriter from the 1950s. We could all be starring in an Orson Welles thriller. The two years I have participated, my name is preceded by only a few names. When I thumbed back through the book, prior years had almost as few people who had paid.

    As for my electric bill, I pay it at Oxxo. I do not trust our local bank. It has a history of taking money for payment and then not notifying the appropriate utility for several days. I assume it’s the same up your way. One day late on telephone or electricity bills, and you are walking around talking to your neighbors with tin cans and string.


    1. Señor Cotton: One never wearies up here in the mountains of hearing the endless drawbacks of beach living. Chuckle, chuckle.

      Open an account at Bancomer. They’ve paid my electric bills on time for quite a spell, never a problem. Bancomer is an excellent bank. It does everything well.


  3. For some reason we pay the water bill every January. It is about 1600 pesos. We just did what the prior owners did.


    1. Patzman: Your place is downtown as is our Casita rental. We pay the Casita water bill yearly too in January at City Hall. But where we live out here on the hardscrabble rim of town, the system is different. Our neighborhood still thinks it’s an independent village, which it once was but is not anymore.


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