The DMV, Mexico-style

My driver’s license expires in less than a year, so I figured I should get started on renewal, just to be safe. A couple of years ago, my state began opening windows of opportunity during which permanent licenses could be had. That’s right, licenses that never expire.

It’s a dumb idea, but count me in!

These windows usually are open a month or so. We’re in the middle of one right now.

A friend in the nearby capital city obtained a permanent license there a year ago. Basically, what she had to do was go early, stand in a long line, have patience, pay fees, and then she left with the permanent license. All in one day at the same location.

Most who live in Mexico know that identical processes can entail very different requirements depending on where you live. It’s a case of the left arm having no clue what the right arm is doing.

Here is my driver’s license epic:


Day One

Driver’s licenses are only available on my mountaintop at City Hall, which is open from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m.

I enter and ask a “greeter” what I must do to get the permanent license. He lists the documents required and points me to a cashier window, telling me I must first pay for a medical exam, and take the receipt to either a nearby government hospital or a clinic on the edge of town.

I pay, get the receipt, walk three blocks to the Honda and drive to the government hospital where they tell me they don’t do the exams, that I have to go to the clinic on the edge of town. I walk back to the Honda and drive to the clinic.

A guard at the clinic tells me I need a copy of the receipt, and that a place across the street makes copies. I do that and return to the clinic. The guard points me down a hall to the administration office.

A lone man in that office asks for the receipt. He types stuff into his computer, prints a form, and hands it to me.

I passed my medical exam with no doctor in sight! Nobody even asked how I felt. It is too late to return to City Hall.


Day Two

I return to City Hall and go to the window where you hand in your documents and get the driver’s license. The clerk asks for my driving test results. I knew it was just a written test, and I assumed I would take it at City Hall. He tells me the test is given at the police station, which is a few miles away.

I return to the Honda, parked three blocks distant.

I drive to the police station where I am asked for the receipt of my payment. No one had mentioned this at City Hall, which I had just left. It was too late to return.


Day Three

On Days One and Two, I had gone to City Hall around noon, an hour before closing, because I figured most people went in the morning and I would encounter fewer folks in the afternoon.

And that assumption was accurate.

But on Day Three, I planned to go earlier, pay for the driving test, drive to the police station, take the test and, hopefully, have time to return and get my driver’s license before 1 p.m.

I arrived at 9:30 a.m., and it was a mob scene of epic proportions, spilling out into the street. I turned around and went home.

But I drove back at 12:30. Far fewer people. I paid for the driving test, walked back to the Honda, and drove to the police station. The test was multiple choice, 18 questions. I was told I could only miss two.

I missed four. The nice cop who graded me, however, corrected two, left two wrong. I had passed! But it was too late to return to City Hall.


Day Four

I returned at noon, wondering what other roadblocks would be tossed into my path. There were few people waiting at the final window, my window, and there were chairs, thank God.

After 30 minutes, it was my turn. I handed over my documents, signed some paperwork, was ushered through a door where my mug was shot. I went back outside to the chairs and, about five minutes later, I had my driver’s license.

If I do not lose it, I’ll never have to repeat this process again.

A permanent driver’s license. What a nutty idea. I can drive at age 100, mowing down pedestrians willy-nilly, but I’ll be doing it legally!

Licensed to kill.

It was a dark & stormy night

Okay, that’s a lie. While it was dark, it was not stormy because the monsoon season has petered out. But here is what happened.

I awoke around 1:30 a.m. to make a pee-pee run. After taking care of business just across the hall from the bedroom, I was heading back to the sack when I heard something suspicious. I walked into the distant kitchen where my suspicions were confirmed.

The water pump was running.

Most homes in Mexico get water in a different way than they get it above the Rio Bravo. Up there, water comes out of the taps, water you can actually drink, and the water bill comes every month. End of story. It’s not much different than how those homes get electricity and gas. It’s simply there if you pay the monthly bill.

Here, however, one usually has an underground cistern which is filled either automatically from the municipal supply or filled manually from a tanker truck. For about 10 years, we used the latter system, but now we use the former. Every weekday, water comes in from the street to fill our cistern, which holds about 9,000 liters.

It’s a set rate of about $3.50 U.S. a month, unmetered.

There is also a tank on the roof which serves the house taps via gravity. There’s an electronic gizmo inside that tank which senses when it’s half empty. At that point, the gizmo turns on a pump that sits below near the cistern. In our house, it’s just outside the kitchen window. Pump goes on, and water travels from the cistern to the roof tank.

The gizmo is prone to failure. When that happens, it’s almost always that it fails to notice the roof tank is empty, and you find the taps in the house bone dry. But on rare occasion, it fails in the other direction, not noticing that the roof tank is full, and the water keeps on coming and coming and coming.

There is a drain hole at the tank’s top, so the water then flows out to the roof and through various drain pipes to the ground.

And that is what was happening at 1:30 a.m. I imagine I flushed the john before hitting the hay, and that triggered the pump, so it likely had been running about three hours, pouring water all over the Garden Patio and then out to the street via another drain pipe.

The immediate problem was an easy solve. The pump has an on-off switch. I walked out there and turned it off, and went back to bed.

This morning, as I was preparing biscuits and honey at 8:30, I heard the water pouring into the underground cistern from the municipal supply. It had an oddly hollow sound. I stepped outside and opened the cistern lid to find it almost empty, so I had tossed about 9,000 liters into the street in the middle of the night.

I’ve phoned the plumber. He’ll be here Monday to replace the electronic gizmo. It’s not very expensive.

Speaking of water, for many years, our drinking water came from those five-gallon bottles atop a dispenser in the kitchen. I finally wearied of hoisting them, and now we have a filtration system beneath the kitchen sink, something I should have done years sooner.

Living in the “Third World” often presents problems those pampered people farther north never think of.

Hasta la vista, Andres

On August 29, a friend died. His name was Andy. He often left comments here on The Moon using the name Andres until four or five years ago, when he stopped. I never understood why. We continued to communicate fairly frequently, but via email.

I thought of him as a friend although we only saw each other in person one time when he rode a bus to my mountaintop town, and we sat on the central plaza with cafecitos. I later joined him for lunch before driving him to the bus station to return to Uruapan, the city where he lived for 15 years about 35 miles southwest of here.

That was some years ago too.

Andy and I had lots in common. We were born in the same year. We graduated from high school in the same year. We were in the Air Force at the same time though in distant bases. We both moved to Mexico alone. I came in a plane. He came in his car, which was stolen about a week later. He never bought another one.

Andy didn’t have much money.

We both grew up in Florida. He became a social worker. I almost became a social worker too, surprisingly.

He had serious respiratory issues (COPD) due to chain-smoking for decades. He quashed the habit two years ago, but that was not soon enough because the Kung Flu shoved him over the edge.

A week before he died, he emailed me that he had awakened that morning feeling much better after days of a high fever and that he’d also had trouble breathing. He thought he was on the mend.

I asked if he’d had a covid test, and he said no, but he suspected that was the problem. He said that if he had not quit smoking two years ago, he would probably have died.

In the following week, I emailed him a couple of times on other matters and asking how he was doing. I received no reply. The week after that, I emailed again, and I received a reply from his email but from a Mexican friend who told me Andy had died. He was 76 years old.


Initially, I planned to end this post with a list of Gringos and Canucks I’ve known here, both in person and online, who have died since I moved to Mexico. I started to list them on a sheet of paper, and I was surprised. Were I to include them here with a few words about each, you would be reading nonstop until tomorrow.

Most, of course, were retirees like me. But I stopped working early at age 55, and most did not, so their time in Margaritaville was briefer than mine has been.

One day I’ll be on that list, but someone else will write it.

I hope Andy is doing okay.

Another idiot check

Every two weeks I check my PO box downtown. I don’t check it more often because I rarely receive anything, and 99 percent of what I do receive is from the United States. Today I got my second idiot check.

And this one was for twice the amount of the previous. It’s more moolah to ease my financial pain caused by the Kung Flu, financial pain that, for me, never happened.

Why do I call it an idiot check? Because it comes from the idiots who run the U. S. government and are fond of tossing money in all directions regardless of need or logic. Much goes overseas, and I’m not referring to me but to foreign nations in the form of aid. Some of that aid goes to China, which catapults the idiocy to unbelievable heights.

China. Really? I just learned of this lately.

Meanwhile, the United States sinks deeper into its Red Sea of Debt.

Mexican mail

But there is good news here, and that’s the Mexican postal system. Yes, it’s still slow, at times miserably so, but the fact that I received this check and the previous, which were in window envelopes with U.S. Treasury as the return address, making it crystal clear that a check was inside, is cause for celebration.

These are the first two checks ever mailed to me, but I’ve read horror stories of checks being stolen in the Mexican postal system, and the advice that one ought never have a check mailed here. I did have a credit card from above the border vanish years ago, and that is why Mexican banks do not deliver credit cards in the mail. They know better.

Express services deliver them, or you can pick them up at the bank.

I was surprised when I received the first check a couple of months ago. I thought it was a fluke. And now I get another one. I suspect one reason may be that cashing it nowadays is very difficult. Check-cashing services require lots of identification. Lots. And most Mexican banks will not cash a dollar check, or let you deposit it.

No new eye

The check amount is exactly the cost of my second laser eye surgery, and I had considered using it for that, but I have decided to leave my second eye in peace. It works just fine. I had a cataract removal in February, which I wrote about here.

The reason I did the first one was that my ophthalmologist said it likely was the cause of my diminishing night vision, which made driving after dark unwise and inconvenient. But the only post-op change that I see — no pun intended — is that colors are now a bit brighter in the repaired eye, which was the worst of the two, the doc said.

So the worst eye is now the best eye. Might that be enough?

True, I have not driven after dark since the surgery because the hour changed, and I don’t leave home after 9 p.m. I’ll see how it goes when we switch hours again in October, but I suspect I’ll leave well enough alone, and I also suspect that it did not reduce my problem. But maybe it did, so I still won’t need to go under the laser again.

Maybe years in the future when I get really old.