GRINGAS & GUACAMOLE – September 2009


By Gail Nott

Mechanic Ally Challenged


GRINGAS-COLORI am not sure if it is because we are mechanically challenged or we are unprepared for the intricacies of living in Mexico but nothing works like we think it should. I am getting so paranoid, I look at a safety pin with skepticism.

The recent windstorm blew out the pilot light on my continuous hot water heater. After looking and poking for half and hour, I humbled myself and called a friend for assistance. “Could you come over and light my hot water heater?”

“It’s easy, just push in the red knob and put a match to the pilot light.”

“There is no red knob and which little stem is the pilot light?”

Now there are two of us looking and poking at the front of the heater. The directions are printed in Spanish; there is a gray knob displaying hieroglyphics and three little stems sticking up inside a small, dark bale. Another half hour of pushing, pulling, lighting, relighting and expressing fears of getting blown up,’ magically we did. Get blown-up! Sans some eyebrows, lashes and a bit of fringe at the hairline, we once again peered into the small, dark bale. The pilot light was lit. Haven’t the vaguest idea how. I’ll worry about it the next time it blows out.

“I need to change the message on my answering machine, how do I do it?” Without seeing the machine, I respond, “Push the button that says record.

“Will you call my number in ten minutes and make sure it sounds OK?” “Sure.” True to my word, I make the call and after the message, I endure two minutes of dead air waiting for the beep.

“You must have done something wrong. No one calling from the U.S. is going to pay for two minutes of silence.”

“Tell me exactly what you did.”

“I hit that little button, picked up the receiver and spoke into it”

“Why did you pick up the receiver?”

“Well, what else am I going to talk into?”

“Why didn’t you hang up after stating your message?”

“I was waiting for a beep.”

“Look at your answering machine, see an area with little holes? That is a microphone. Hit the little button, state your message and hit the button again. Got it?”

“Yeah, but I still don’t understand how it is going to know when to go beep!”

I can appreciate that no one is going to outwardly acknowledge they have been this stupid, but those slight smiles are a giveaway. Friends and family visiting from the North aren’t immune. “Come quick, gas is filling the kitchen.” “What did you do?” “I turned on the stove and the knob fell off in my hand.” “What the hell did you turn the stove on for?” “I wanted a cup of tea.” “What do you think the microwave is for?”

The knob would not fit back in the hole and the house was filling with gas. Pliers jammed in the hole to turn the stem didn’t work, and the stove had been cemented to the floor prohibiting me from sliding it out to locate a shut off valve. Lee Ann’s frantic call to the gas company was met with the response that they would come out in a day or two.

She almost slapped me when I knowingly laughed at her expression of disbelief.

I was beginning to envision Puerto Vallarta missing from future maps of Mexico. OK I eventually figured out that I had to turn off the gas valve for the entire property. Lee Ann did not go near the stove again for the rest of her visit.

There is no doubt in my mind that nature and Mexican repairmen are in cahoots. I don’t care how smart you think you are, you aren’t. “Jesus, the señora’s doorbell is not working. Could you come see where the connection is broken?” I followed him down the wall as he checked that each connection was still wrapped with Scotch tape. I even broke down and double-checked that the damn thing was plugged into a socket.

“Señora, you must some quick and bring Raid.”

“Jesus, please, just fix the doorbell. I’ll call the exterminator later.” Walking into the kitchen, Jesus removed the cover on the doorbell mechanism and laid it on the counter. Thousands of ants spilled out onto my counters and floor. I performed a variation of the salsa trying to step on as many ants as possible “Jesus, why in the hell did you bring it in the house?”

With a slight smile, he fished a business card out of his wallet. His cousin is an exterminator. Go figure!

Ojo Del Lago
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