Toluca Gringa

8,700 feet does more than simply turn you into a cheap date

Saturday, April 19, 2008




People talk about serendipity. I recently read something from Deepak Chopra (Something about him rubs me wrong. The sound of his name is not at all harmonious, all those consonants fighting over airspace. Maybe that’s it.) Anyway, Deepak was talking about an event so serendipitous I had to call bullshit. Even the way he explained it sounded more like a script for a Hallmark movie of the week. But, the fact is that things like this happen all the time. I think they happen to all of us, maybe every day. Maybe once a year, but we’re too busy or drunk or brain dead watching reality tv that we don’t pay attention.

People I haven’t heard from in years often pop into my mind, I might spend a good chunk of my lunch hour thinking about this person. Or maybe I’ll wake up reminding myself to send an email after all these years. Then (you know what’s next), I’ll open my inbox and there’s an email. Out of the blue (if you like the sound of that cliché). I like to think there’s something magical about human energy that we can connect in such a way. I’d really like to believe that. Politics divides us, but so does this idea of there are no vs. life is full of coincidences.

Which brings me to last night, after drinking one beer each and eating decent but oily fish (still cozy in my gut 12 hours later), Diana, Haru, and I were looking out over the lights of Metepec, the only people on top of this hill who weren’t making out in the awkward shadow of the church lights. We were struggling through a tri-cultural discussion about human connections. I mentioned the 500 theory – the idea that we all have 500 people in our circle of influence. Sometimes we know them on a personal level, sometimes a person enters our lives and alters it in some way without us knowing it. This happened to me on a train from Tangiers to Casablanca and someday I’ll write it all down without sounding like Dpk.


Feeling kind of out of place and not willing to join the make-out fest, we walked back down to the main road to get a cab. I enjoy watching the faces of the cab drivers as they try to follow our conversations. They always ask Haru where she’s from, and she’s usually nice about it, but last night I could tell that she, too, was getting tired of answering the question. Still, being Haru, she answers sweetly, “Japon,” and the driver starts the interrogation, beginning with “Chido” and then, “Que haces aqui?” Last night she dummied up as if she didn’t understand. Life’s too short to answer the personal questions of a guy you’ll never see again. “I’ll pay you double the fare if you just shut up,” I thought. We were tired.

So, we get to a stop light and the driver actually stops. Next to us are two guys, teenagers, in a red sports car with some kind of crazy paint job. They’re waving at us and going crazy with the hand gestures, drinking their air beers and wagging their palms for us to jump in the car. Haru, being Haru, smiled sweetly and waved. Maybe they realized we weren’t going to get nasty with them, who knows, but suddenly they sped off, screeching their tires and spinning out (there’s a phrasal verb for this in English, which I haven’t used since high school, but I think it’s called “peeling out.”) So, they peeled out and passed us, fishtailing and showing off. I had just said something sarcasic about missed opportunity when suddenly the car crossed both lanes in front of us, made a few circles (the cab slammed on the breaks so we wouldn’t hit them) and jumped the curb dead on into a tree. The car was completely destroyed – literally folded in half. The cabbie pulled over and ran to the scene. The sportscar was unrecognizable, a mess of red metal and deployed airbags. I couldn’t go over there. I didn’t want to see them. There’s no way they could survive that. Diana ran over. Someone called an ambulance, and soon every car that passed stopped to “help.” The driver was still alive, the cabbie said. His friend in the passenger seat was trapped inside, but alive.

It’s a miracle of god, the cabbie said. You girls should be more careful, he said, as if it were our fault. Everything was quiet in the cab. The ambulance sped past as we made our way home. Ten more blocks, maybe twelve. Those guys will never do that again, Haru said. Maybe they won’t.

But it wasn’t our fault. We could pass those guys tomorrow in the supermarket and they wouldn’t recognize us. They don’t know us and never will. We’re just part of their 500.

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