I couldn’t think of an appropriate name for this post, but Traffic! will do. You see, traffic in Querétaro is totally insane. Along with it, there is also the insanity of trying to park downtown.
As seems likely the longer we live here, I finally got a parking ticket. Lyn and I had ventured to El Centro Historico for an afternoon stroll. Having found the “perfect” spot, we set off to enjoy the city sites, stop for a quick bite to eat, and do some shopping, mostly of the window variety.
On one walk about, we actually passed our car in its gloriously convenient, and, I believed, free location. But, when we finally decided to head home, there was a long narrow strip of paper under the windshield.
Honestly, I thought it was someone’s grocery store receipt, because that was what it looked like. However, on closer inspection, I realized it was really a parking ticket. A parking ticket!
There was so much information on it to decipher, but it clearly was for my car, parked in a “no parking” zone. I didn’t see the signs, although the ticket says they were clearly marked. Oh well.
Unlike other parking tickets I’ve received over the years, this one did say how much the “infraccion” would cost me.
A day or two later, the young man who cuts our grass translated it for me. He then asked, “did they take your license plate?”
Apparently, this is the custom. They leave you a ticket and take one of your license plates. I hadn’t noticed, but they sure as heck took my plate! I suppose it is good motivation to get you to pay the ticket, although I drove around for several months without any plates on my car and never was stopped. Jonathan (the gardener) thought the ticket would be about $180 pesos, which would be discounted if I paid it within 90 days.
So, the following day I drove to the location indicated on the ticket, totally terrified of what the process might be. It was actually a breeze and very well organized. We went about noon, which is a good time to go places here, as lunch is typically around 2:00 p.m. and traffic is light.
The place was totally devoted to parking tickets. First, you go to a window where they validate your ticket. The second window is where they tell you how much you have to pay. This was the disappointing part, as it turned out that, even with a 50% discount, the fine was $500 pesos — that’s about $25! Well, seeing as there was nothing to do about it, I paid the fine and went to the third and final window, where they gave me back my license plate and a receipt for paying the fine. They also asked for all my information (name, address, cell phone number, email, etc.). For what purpose I hope I never learn.
I suppose it was a good thing it happened when it did and that it was as easy to remedy as it was. I am quite averse to “firsts” as they raise my anxiety level to new heights. Fortunately, Lyn was with me, which made things a bit less stressful.
The last couple of times we came downtown (like today), I did myself a favor and parked in a lot. For 25 pesos (about $1.25 US) you can park for quite some time. Sure beats a 500 peso fine!
Back to Traffic
So, last week there was some event going on in El Centro Historico. Living as we do in the burbs, I had no idea. I try to leave at least an hour to get to work, since traffic is unpredictable. On this night, it was beyond insane — it was a freaking parking lot!
I left my house at 6:10 to be on time for a 7:30 class. It usually takes about 25 minutes. The longest prior to this particular night had been an hour and 15 minutes. On this night, that record was squashed — after two and a half hours, I still hadn’t made it to school. Since class is over at 9:00, I made an executive decision at 8:45 to head back home.
It seems that the traffic was due to something called the Christmas Train. One of the big department stores sponsors it, and people from all over head into downtown to see it. Interestingly, on this night, the event was cancelled, but word hadn’t gotten around. Everyone still showed up.
The only bright spot for me was that the traffic was literally moving at a snail’s pace and I was able to text my students from the car. They were very cute. They were actually doing classwork and sending me photos of what they had done. I sent them additional things to do, and all-in-all, the class seemed to get along without me. Phew.
Of course it only took me 15-minutes to get back home. The stress took its toll on me. I actually had TWO glasses of wine instead of my usual one.