The young dragon lady looked up officiously, coolly – challengingly? – from her seat of authority. “You will have to bring your bags in here to have them inspected,” she haughtily pronounced.
“Of course,” I smilingly responded. “We have six bags – I will need a worker and a cart to do that.” She glared at me. Her superior, a good-looking mustached man, thick eyebrows and pleasant face, tapped her shoulder and bent down to speak to her, quietly. She looked up and quite melted, even cowering a bit. He turned to us… “You may push the traffic light button over there on the post,” he said, “and if the light is green you may pass through.” I laughed and exclaimed… “It’s a lottery!” I chirped gaily, smiling at him. I like to weave a pleasant tapestry with the Mexicans – they have a wonderful sense of humor and gaiety. “Yes! Exactly!” he exclaimed, and we all crossed our fingers as I timidly reached to push that button. “Yay!” I sang out, as it shone a lovely steady green. And we all clapped. (I think he might have rigged it.)
Always brings a bit of angst, flying into a Mexican border crossing. The language, the paperwork… You better have your papers in order – you can never know for sure, what to expect. Rigid adherence and exaggerated insistence on fine details (your insurance form is almost out of date…)? Or a laissez-faire attitude. It will depend on the heat, the numbers crossing, the mood. The officials are usually courteous and amiable, even helpful. But don’t let that fool you. They take their work very seriously. Often one must process through five desks with five officials – officials that staff their posts with helpful but no-nonsense attitudes (each desk often tiresomely found in different buildings) .
The Mexican government is a huge employer of the Mexicans. In the USA, airports are arranged for the convenience of its pilots – their customers. In Mexico – all is arranged for the convenience of the employee – a shock to the US pilot. And the government, being the government, has an innate passion for paperwork, and whoops it up with rules and paper stamping. The Mexicans love to stamp papers. You’re not important unless you are the wielder of a rubber stamp. Thud, slap, thud, slap, thud, slap… uh-oh you missed a desk? Go back to that other building, find it, get that paper stamped by that other official. One of those fine, tiresome details. Quixotically, things change randomly. For the workers, that can be a huffy ego thing. Having been blind-sided by a rule change, they must pretend to know what’s correct. For the pilot, it’s exasperating.
And oh, yes, they do indeed use a pseudo traffic light to decide if you get inspected or not! Press a button – red means unload and open the bags, green means you get a pass. Everyone hopes for green, even the wokers. Nobody likes hoisting and dragging in the heat. I was mighty glad to have passed.