I have been sitting in a line of cars for 2.5 hours – since about 6 PM. I joined this line around 1.5 kilometers from the gas station. I have been telling myself during the last few days that I was not going to sit in a gas line and that I could wait for the supply to normalize. My children could miss a couple of days of school and they would be OK. I could walk to the grocery store nearby and replenish our food supplies. However, after reading and hearing about the news reports during the last two days, I now know that this shortage may actually last for a few weeks…or more…and my kids might miss a few weeks of school, not just a few days of school. So with that in mind, when I received a heads up about gasoline being sold nearby from one of my friends (whose ear is close to the ground about such things) I decided to act and I quickly drove off and joined the long queue. As I continue to sit here in the dark, watching lightning flash in the distance, slowly moving forward in the line, I start to be hopeful that I will make it to the pump before they run out of gas. I can almost see the glow of the gas station lights ahead of me. Maybe. I’m about 400 meters away and we are still moving forward, albeit slowly.
There is panic among some of the other expat wives that I know and their panic has been frustrating and irritating to listen to over the last few days. I just cannot figure out why they are so worried. I can’t understand why they seem to have forgotten that things like this happen in the US too. And that we are fortunate to now live in a place that is warm, where we are free to walk or ride our bikes without fear of frostbite from sub-zero temperatures, and that we live close enough to our food sources that distribution will probably not be a problem for a while. And it’s also unlikely that we’re going to lose power and freeze to death in our homes here. The worst thing that will happen is that our children won’t be able to go to school. Although after having my children home for two and a half weeks for winter break, I really need them to go back to school! But all joking aside, while I do think they need to be with their friends and prepare for their next round of exams, missing a month of school when the teachers send assignments out via Google classroom so they can keep up that way is not really so bad. So I am very confused by, and I cannot relate to, the panic that some of the other expat wives are feeling, especially the ones that do not have children at home. But I refuse to participate in the group panic and at every opportunity, I will continue to remind people that what we as expats have here is a much better situation than what many people in the US are dealing with right now.
With that being said, however, while our situation is pretty good, the reality for people who do not have a salaried job is much more serious. Our maid depends on buses and taxis to get to our house everyday and if one of those modes of transportation falters because they do not have gas, and she cannot get to work, then she will not be paid. (I will not let that happen in our case, but I am sure that is what happens to other people in her situation.) I can understand why so many people are desperate for gasoline and so angry with the Mexican government and their fight against huachicoleros (gas thieves). And I see the situation between what is happening in the US and Mexico as being very similar. With the US government shutdown affecting so many people who cannot afford to miss a paycheck, people are desperate for a job where they actually get paid, especially if those people are being forced to work without being paid. Here in Mexico, people that cannot get to work because of the gas shortage will miss being paid and cannot support themselves and their families. Both situations are terrible. And while the situation in the US affects only a small subset of the population in terms of money, it has a far greater effect on people who are unable to transact business with the agencies that are shutdown, as well as the people who are trying to safely travel via plane. I am not sure which country’s government wins in the “Bad Idea” department – it may be the government that allows their farce to continue the longest.
As I finish writing out my opinions, I have come to the realization that the gas line has stopped moving. People carrying empty gas containers have started walking back towards their cars. That can only mean one thing – the gas station has run out of gas. And I wasted 30 kilometers worth of gas trying to get more. My husband did not think this adventure would be worth it and with the extreme disappointment that I feel at this moment, I have to agree with him. I have sat in this line for three hours and I feel like I wasted my time. I know, however, that many people have been waiting in lines for 10 or 12 hours at a time, hoping for gas. People are spending the night in lines, hoping that when the gas is finally delivered to the station, they will be one of the lucky few who gets to put some gas in their tank. With two small children at home, and a husband who is still expected to get to work everyday, that option is not really available to me. But my need is much less than most Mexicans and for that reason, I will not worry and panic about this situation. We still have a pretty good thing going on here. And I know that our situation here is still better than freezing in Indiana or not getting paid and still going to work anyways.