Today I picked up my repaired computer. It was silent and it no longer imitated the high pitched whine of the jet, the one that was flying over, outside Powersonic Computers in Richmond, on its approach for landing at YVR. While my computer is four years old it seemed new. It reminded me of an opposite situation, an evening in the late 70s in a third class hotel (the only one in the region at the time) outside the Mayan ruins of Palenque in Chiapas. I went to the front desk and told the man I needed a wake up call so I could catch a second class bus on the nearby highway that would take me to Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco where I was going to take a plane back to Mexico City. The heat was stifling and the mosquitoes were out in force. The man wiped his brow and told me, “We have no alarm clock here so you will have to wake yourself up.” I smoked a Flor de la Costa cigar to keep the bugs away. At the time I had one of those alarm watches. It was a mechanical one so the buzz was barely audible. I knew I was not going to sleep that night. I couldn’t have as the heat, the humidity and the mosquitoes would have conspired against any of my attempts at sleep. I managed to get up and walk to the highway where I flagged down a bus. It was full of Indians with their pigs and turkeys. The bus reeked of smoke. The bus ride was one of the worst in my life. It seemed that someone would flag the bus every kilometer or so. When that happened it would take long minutes before the bus with its many forward gears managed to arrive at a semblance of cruising speed. I thought I would never make it, but I did. I was rewarded by the sight of a pristine white Mexicana de Aviación Boeing 727. I was never so happy to be in civilization, a clean one and an apparently orderly one. In my years in Mexico City before I moved with my family to Vancouver, I felt that chaos was always around the corner. Our little house in the outer area of Mexico City was a housing development surrounded by a stone wall. The wall had been breached just after it had been built and the poorer residents of the surrounding areas would come through the breach to sell their wares and vegetables in a weekly outdoor market. Nearby my friend Andrew Taylor lived in an unbreached walled compound which had its own golf course and sentry posts with guards who carried guns. Every day Rosemary and I would drive to Mexico City on the Periférico freeway which was a chaos of bumper to bumper. We felt comfortable in the not so safe heaven of our Volkswagen beetle. We felt secure even though I knew that the big Mustang behind, riding my bumper would demolish me if I were to suddenly stop.
It was then that I attached a switch to my dashboard that lit the brake lights without me having to step on the brakes. This device sometimes helped me get rid of the bumper guys. Nearer the city when traffic would almost grind to a halt, young boys and girls or pregnant women carrying babies would walk from car to car selling newspapers, chewing gum, lottery tickets. Some young men would spit out flames from their mouth after filling it with kerosene. Others tried to clean or windshields. It was sometime around 1974 when I spotted women getting into cars. I found out that they offered oral sexual services while you drove. It was then that Rosemary and I decided that Mexico City was no place for our young daughters. Our VW was the champion that transported us from our jobs to the heaven that was our home. It did it efficiently. When the car had to be serviced I begged the dealer to accomplish that task in one day. When this was not possible I depended on an extremely unreliable bus service. It was pleasant to take our VW to the dealer. We were always met by a German tech guy dressed in white who reflected efficiency and expertise. It made me relax. This feeling eventually disappeared. One day I returned to pick up the car and I was given my four old spark plugs by the man in white. I gestured him to follow me. I opened the engine compartment and pointed at the four spark plugs in the engine. They all had a little dab of Rosemary’s nail polish. That’s when I realized that the efficiency was merely a mirage. The plugs had not been replaced at all. It is in Vancouver where I learned to drive without stress. I never have to drive offensively and drivers almost always follow the directions to merge. Perhaps it may be that because I am light skinned that I am never afraid when I am stopped by a policeman. I feel safe. For years I left my front door unlocked until one day someone came in, in the middle of the night and carted off my stereo and CD collection. But all in all I mostly trust the people I deal with in Vancouver. And this is never more so when I visit our Audi dealer in Richmond for service to Rosemary’s leased A-4. The coffee or hot chocolate is free, the magazines and the newspapers are there for us to peruse and if the wait exceeds the promised one we are given a loaner at no cost. When I picked up my sleek looking, but old computer today, I felt again that sense that all was well with in the framework of my universe. The computer is not a gadget I am excited about. It enables me to secure some work and to write this. With my computer on one side of my Edwardian desk, my world is secure and in good order. I cannot ask for more.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.