05 January 2010

Dos veces en una semana | Twice in one week

Twice in one week someone has attempted to steal my car while parked in Tijuana.

On Tuesday, someone smashed the passenger window at Madero and Sixth, around the corner from La Mezcalera. They made off with some spotlights, an extension cord, my high school trumpet that I’ve been meaning to pawn, one flip-flop, my hat from a Mississippi truck stop that said "Born in the city, bred to slave, huntin' and fishin' is all I crave," and my gym bag that contained my favorite Speedo. It said "Italia" across the ass. All of it was hidden in the trunk. They left the radio, the speakers, my CDs, a borrowed copy of Dostoevsky's "Poor Folk," my beach chairs, the jumper cables and the rim on my busted tire. That's also been in the trunk for a month or so, ever since I hit a pothole in the middle of nowhere at 4 a.m. I'll get to that in a bit.

I've parked in that spot countless times after dark against the advice of several Tijuanense friends, but nothing has ever happened. Yeah, more than once I've crunched over trails of shattered glass leading to cars parked in front of mine or behind mine. But never mine. I always assumed it was because I take faith in my Club. And in whatever magical computer chip in the key that must match up to the ignition switch for the car to start. And in the unwritten commandment that if nothing worth stealing is in sight, no glass shall be smashed. That, it turns out, is complete bull shit.

Sergio's birthday party was happening around the corner at the bar, so I came bearing a big gift. For the two or three shady guys observing me from the shadows as I walked away from the car, perhaps that meant, "Inside this Mexican-made German piece of overpriced engineering you will find every First World treasure that Central America never bestowed upon you. Please, have at it." But I didn’t really worry much. Two or three shady guys are often chilling in the shadows whenever I park there, and nothing has ever happened. Until now. Who’s to say whether it was them anyway.

Luckily, Volkswagen Tijuana made everything better the next day for only $80, about half of what it would have cost at the Super Auto Glass Megamart in San Diego. In all honesty, I paid $80 for someone to clean all the trash out of my car: papers and empty CD cases that probably caught their attention in the first place. As far as I'm concerned, the asshole stole my trash (aside from the Italia mankini) and I learned a priceless lesson about being too cheap to park in a guarded lot.

On Monday, someone attacked the driver door lock right below my bedroom window while I slept. The fuckers dove in with what I'm guessing was a member of the screwdriver family, completely disregarding the little red security light flashing alongside the lock as well as the Club (a squirt of liquid nitrogen in the lock easily takes care of that anyway, apparently). They completely tore apart the keyhole and then for whatever reason took off without finishing the job, but not before leaving a scratch the size of an asscrack on the handle.

Anyone familiar with downtown Tijuana will think I'm an idiot for not expecting something like this to happen sooner or later, as downtown is thought to be the most fearful sector of the city by 99.99999 percent of its residents. Even I was made to believe this once upon a time while living in La Cacho, a prissier borough immediately southeast of the city center. Back in those days I was told to not cruise around with the windows cracked for fear of dirty migrant men grabbing at the change tray while at a red light. Or just a good old-fashioned carjacking.

All that fear of downtown Tijuana, at least in regards to the quiet block that I now call home, turned out to be nonsense.

That is, before the arrival of the OXXO.

OXXO is Mexico's 7-Eleven, and it recently set up a new shop in the vacant space below my apartment. It is to blame for me not being able to claim one night of decent sleep for the entire summer. Construction began at 7 a.m. six days a week for the sum of some four months. Jackhammers. Sledgehammers. Drills. A fine layer of concrete dust covered everything, including no doubt the innards of my lungs. And because concrete does not come apart quietly, I now know what it is to live inside a wisdom tooth as it's being chipped out of the jaw. Ironically, the house used to be a dentist's office.

The perks of living above a convenient store are obvious: easy access to Doritos and Fanta at all hours. The downfall, however, is easy access to Doritos and Fanta at all hours for everybody within a mile radius. More foot traffic means more eyes on the cars parked around the corner. It's too coincidental that nothing ever happened to the car before the OXXO arrived. My roommates lived here a good eight months or so before I moved in, and nothing ever happened to their car.

Hoping to save a buck, I called an aftermarket body shop for an estimate. They told me the job was so complicated and all the parts would wind up coming from the dealer anyway, so I should just save myself the trouble and take it to them. My inner monologue let loose a pathetic moan; no more than two months ago I spent $550 to replace my cracked oil pan at the dealer, after bottoming out who knows how many dips, ridiculously massive speed bumps and potholes scattered around town. It seems that in Tijuana, the larger your car, the faster you drive it. Hence the need for ridiculously massive speed bumps.

Speaking of potholes, back to the tire. I hit a pothole on the free road to Rosarito and ruined the eighth tire I've had to buy since purchasing the car two years ago. That makes some $1,000 worth of rubber I've had to buy since that car and I have been together. But not just any tires. They're tubeless sport tires, the sort Autobahnophiles love despite the fact they cost a good $50 more a pop than your standard llanta. And they're about as lasting as toilet paper here in craterlandia. Switching to standard llantas would be the smart thing to do, but that would mean swapping out all four wheels. Who the hell knows how much that would cost.

Now I know why everyone here drives monster pickups.

The maraschino cherry on my shit sundae: Back in October, my wallet either slipped out of or was lifted from my back pocket at Mike's, a sad male strip joint/drag bar for undersexed straight women that's a few blocks from my house. I always make a point to empty my wallet of all the important plastic -- Sentri card, credit cards, etc. -- when going out. On the one evening I happen to forget, it disappears.

This all reminds me of Kinsee's bout of purse/car hell, which coincidentally happened around her 2 1/2 year mark of living in Tijuana. Her experience was much more traumatic, I must admit. Let's dig up her blog post to prove it. It all started with her losing her purse after stashing it in a pile of chairs in the corner of a half-empty nightclub. While we danced, someone made off with her wallet, license, Sentri card, house keys, car keys and Club keys. Later that week someone drove off with her car while it was parked outside our apartment building. The cops actually found it, but it took days of signing papers on both sides of the border and paying for document translations and waiting through hours of bureaucratic nightmares for her to get it back. Then, a week later, someone busted the window to rob a wadded up laundry bag in the backseat that was full of nothing. Correct me if I've mixed up the order of shitty events, Kinz. It seems we're both victims of a wicked combination of our own naiveness and sheer bad luck.

My car is slowly falling apart. But it's quickly becoming a thief magnet. What's really odd is that none of this really seems to bother me as much as I think it probably should.


Luis said...

The strong cultural and familial ties during the holidays may be the reason why you are being targeted. Be conscious of the fact that most around you are struggling to "bring the holidays home" and take care of your self.

Its funny how priorities change in Mexico. In the US you see tons of lifted, 4x4 trucks, with all the trimmings. Yet the US has pretty good roads and most of those beasts will never be put to the test. But in Mexico, those beasts fit right in.


Luis (not the same previous blogger) said...

Derrik, I feel your pain. Although before referreing to my own experience I have to put it in context: I have been visiting Tijuana por 10.5 stright years twice a month in average, whithout any incident ever happening. I have been living and working (legally)in Chula Vista and San Diego since I moved here from Mexico City in 1999.
In December 25th around 8:30 PM I stopped on in a taco joint in Otay for 10 minutes, leaving the car parked not more than 15 yards from where I was standing eating my delicious steak tacos. As my wife and I approached to the car to leave she noticed that the rear window had been crashed and to my surprise that she had left her purse in the back seat. I've never seen her so anxious as then and the shock of being ripped off of 5 Mexican Passports, 5 visas 2 driver licenses, all Christmass' party pictures in her camera and 100 bucks were more than a reason to loose control.
$700 and 40 days later we've recovered all documents.
Lessons learned: a) thieves are observing people leaving their cars parked and a woman whithout a purse means it is inside the car and they will go for it, either it's visible or not.
b) Sentri card, and passport are better at home if you're not crossing the border at that time.