Let me share a description of a day during this crazy, Mexican gas shortage.
On a dark, dreary Tuesday morning (today) at 7 AM, I received text messages from several friends that the gas station just outside of our neighborhood had started pumping gas and the line was not terribly long. As soon as my children were picked up by a friend of mine, I hopped in my car and got into the line for gas. Another friend of mine was about 20 cars ahead of me (she was one of the people that had texted me about the short line). The friend that had taken my kids to school eventually got in the line behind me, but because she was much later, she was much further behind me in the line. My friend ahead continued to text me updates about her position in line and whether or not all pumps were still pumping. She eventually pulled into a pump after an hour and was told she could only get 500 pesos of gas and that the pumps were pre-programmed so that no one could get more than that. About 30 minutes later, I finally made it to the pump and when the attendant asked me how much gas I wanted, I was confused by the question because my friend had said we were only allowed 500 pesos. So I told him I would like the tank to be filled. He looked at me funny and then I realized I had misunderstood what he was asking. He had wanted to know which type of gas I wanted. But then he said that he could reset the pump for me and give me more gas if I wanted it. I, of course, said yes. He filled my tank for 738 pesos and then sent me on my way. I continued to check in with my friend that had been behind me as she continued to get closer to the station. When she was the fifth car in line from the gas pump, they ran out of gas and stopped pumping. I felt so guilty about taking the extra gas! She immediately left that station and found another station in which to sit in line, that was supposed to be getting a truckload of gas later in the day.
Meanwhile, I was sitting at home trying to figure out carpooling strategies for my kids and the others in our neighborhood when, around 11 AM, I started receiving text messages about a station at the opposite entrance of my neighborhood that would be receiving a gas truck sometime later in the day. I realized that this would be the perfect opportunity for one of the other families in our carpool group to fill up the gas tanks in their two cars, which would then lighten the load for everyone in the group. So I called her and proposed that we both drive their cars, a suburban and a small SUV, and get in line to wait. She agreed and off we went, her in the Suburban, me in the small SUV.
We got in the line and sat for a while. When it was too hot to sit in the car anymore, we stood outside of our cars on the highway and chatted with another friend of ours who was just ahead of us in line. Periodically, men would walk past us headed towards the gas station to get information about the truck. One guy told us that the truck would be there soon, another guy mentioned that the truck would not arrive until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. I had to be home by 3 PM to meet my children after school, so I was concerned that this trip was not going to work out for me. But we continued to wait. I had been advised earlier that this particular gas station was very organized about how they distributed gas and they did not allow any room for cheating (unlike the station I went to that morning). I was told that I needed to be in my vehicle when they walked past with numbered tickets. They only had a certain number of tickets and if you did not get one, you knew you would not be getting gas there. Eventually, after about two hours, we saw the gas truck pass by and everyone gave a cheer. We went back to our cars and continued to wait until the tickets had been passed out. When they came to my car, I found out that I was the 49th car in line. While I was waiting for the line to start moving, I found out that my friend, the one who had not been able to get gas at the station earlier that morning, was the 6th car in line and her husband was the 28th car. I was so happy that she had received a ticket! A few minutes before the line started to move, my friend in the suburban walked up to the SUV and asked to switch cars. She wanted to drive to the school to pay the monthly tuition and since we were halfway there, it would be a good chance to get that done, in the vehicle with better gas mileage. So I got into the suburban and she got into the SUV.
A few minutes later, the cars in front of me started moving forward. Yay! I turned the key in the ignition…and nothing happened. Nothing. Just a click. Oh no. OH NO!!! I started to yell at the car to start. My friend had pulled forward already and there was a large gap between my vehicle and the car in front of me. The guys in the car behind me got out and walked towards me to figure out what was going on. They knew something was wrong because I was loudly yelling at the car. I explained that the car wasn’t working. They first thought that the car had run out of gas. I had no idea what had happened! They had me pop the hood and I told them I thought the battery was dead. They said that could not be it because it wasn’t even trying to start, it was just a tiny click. But they looked at it and used some of my water and a rock (don’t ask me why because I do not know) to try to get the battery working again. Nothing happened. So they started to push my vehicle towards the line far ahead of us. Meanwhile, my friend finally noticed that we were not behind her and ran back to the Suburban as we caught up to the line. I told her I was pretty sure the battery was dead. I, laughingly, asked her what she had been doing the whole time we were sitting in the line. I finally told her that I would drive the small SUV to the gas station and get the mechanic there to help us while she stayed with the Suburban. I was within a few cars of the station when one of the guys came running up and said they figured out that the battery was dead and one of the guys had jumper cables. They would push the suburban up next to the SUV and try to jump it. In the meantime, their own vehicle was way behind us. Amazingly, no one tried to jump them in the line. Everyone behind us seemed to be very patient while they waited for us to figure out a solution to this problem. After the guys hooked up the cables to the cars, it took several tries before she could get the Suburban engine started. Apparently, the battery had been drained completely. Those four guys were absolutely amazing! We were so thankful for their help!
I finally pulled up to a pump in the SUV and then tried to figure out how to open the gas tank door. The gas station attendant and I could not figure it out. Finally, my friend pulled up behind me and it took her a few minutes before she could figure out how to open the gas tank door on the car. I guess we should have figured that out during the three-hour wait. I finally got 500 pesos (and no more!) of gas and drove back to our neighborhood. As I was pulling into my friend’s driveway, I received a phone call from one of the students in our carpool. Apparently, the person who was supposed to give them a ride back to our neighborhood changed their mind and decided to drive to the other side of town instead. So I was about to go to the school to pick them up when I remembered that my friend in the Suburban was headed in that direction. Luckily, she was able to pick up all of the kids and everyone got home, safe and sound, with more gas in the tank. Truly, a happy ending after a crazy day of sitting in gas lines. I wish I had taken pictures from this day (thankfully, my friends had taken some), but I wish I had pictures of our rescuers. Mexico is occasionally full of craziness and chaos, particularly with this gas shortage going on, but always full of good people willing to help out. I absolutely love this country!