Last month, I wrote about my experiences as a senior citizen finding out that my California driver’s license was about to expire. At my age, I was required to retake the written exam. Spoiler alert! I passed. But when I got back to México, I found out that my Mexican driver’s license had already expired—six months ago. As far as I know, I had not received any notification in the mail that it was about to expire. Of course, you never know about mail down here. Maybe it’s still coming. I’ve had Christmas cards arrive in July. And nothing seems to wind up in my actual mailbox. My bills are generally thrown through the gate onto my driveway from a speeding motorcycle. Although neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail keep the Mexican postman from his appointed rounds, he makes no effort to protect my mail from any of those elements. Half my bills are either waterlogged, or decorated with my tire tracks.
Five years ago, I was able to renew my Mexican license with the help of Alfredo Pérez, who teaches a monthly seminar on the subject at the Lake Chapala Society. At that time, you could renew even an expired license without having to retake the written exam. I wasn’t sure if that was still allowed now that I’m 78. So I called Alfredo to find out if I needed to start cramming for the written exam.
Fortunately, he told me that I didn’t need to take the written test. But this time around, there was a new wrinkle. The State of Jalisco recently passed a requirement that anyone 75 or older would have to provide a certification by a doctor that they are capable of safely driving a car. So tell me, how does one cram for a medical exam?
I was about to make an appointment with my doctor when I found out I was supposed to get the health certificate from the local Cruz Roja clinic. Thank heavens. My private doctor once drove me to and from Guadalajara for a medical procedure, and I saw little evidence that even he could safely drive a car. And he’s only in his 40s. Picture having Mario Andretti drive you to your colonoscopy.
Alfredo kindly offered to register me online for my appointments at the driver’s license office and at the BBVA bank, where I’d have to pay the license fee. In the meantime, I headed to the Cruz Roja clinic with my fingers crossed. It turns out it was no big deal. For 100 pesos, a nurse recorded my height and weight, and took my blood pressure. There was no vision test. I answered “No” to about 10 simple questions, and I received my certificate. Mainly, I think they just wanted to be sure I could walk into the clinic on my own two feet and without the aid of a seeing-eye dog.
The biggest problem I had at Cruz Roja was with the clerk whose only task was to copy my name and address from my old driver’s license onto my receipt. She got it wrong on three tries. I suspect she was having trouble reading the small print through her excessively false eyelashes. But, regardless of her inefficiency, I don’t think her job is in jeopardy. I’m sure the ample cleavage she displayed more than qualified her for the job.
My next stop was at the BBVA bank next to city hall. Alfredo had emailed me the completed government invoice showing all my identification numbers and the amount I needed to pay the bank for my license. It turns out, for people my age, they only charge half price. I suppose that’s only fair. Odds are, we won’t last the full five-year term of the license.
At 9:00 A.M. the following day, with my appointment confirmation in hand, I showed up at the driver’s license office. I brought with me the half dozen original documents and Xerox copies that Alfredo told me would be required. I handed the clerk my expired driver’s license, passport, permanent resident card, CURP form, receipt from BBVA bank, newly obtained certificate of health, and a recent electric bill showing my name and address (the tire tracks were optional).
The whole process went like clockwork. I had my new license in less than half an hour. No waiting in line. No clerks who couldn’t spell my name on three tries. But, alas, no cleavage.
So, I’ve managed to squeak by for another five years. After that, who knows? I’m not looking forward to a future pedaling an adult tricycle all over town. My only hope is that Elon Musk will have perfected his self-driving Tesla cars to the point they can deal with Mexican traffic. That could be more of a challenge than his efforts to colonize Mars. In México, you can’t count on any side street being truly one-way. And unmarked speed bumps could send a Tesla airborne. That driverless car will have to share the road with everything from feral dogs to the cows coming home. At the busiest intersections, the car will need to avoid clobbering everything from jugglers and hula-hoopers to unicycle-riding fire eaters as they meander among the cars.
So Elon, I’m counting on you. You’ve got five years to make it happen. You’ve already managed to successfully design a rocket that safely delivers astronauts to the International Space Station. So how hard could it be to produce a self-driving car that will safely deliver an octogenarian to his next colonoscopy?
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com