The Ups and Downs of Disorganization

DISCLAIMER: Another wordy post, I know*, but no attempts at art or style in this one; just a regular, run-of-the-mill travel anecdote.

Sometimes bureaucratic/logistical disorganization can work for you. Sometimes it works against you. Today, while navigating my way back to the good old U.S. of A., I experienced both to a blog-worthy degree.

It all started at the airport in Tuxtla-Guetierez airport at an hour when I would rather be asleep in bed. Small airports have a certain degree of advanrage over their megalith cousins: short lines for both tickets and security. At ticketing, I checked in simply by showing my passport, as always do. I've since done away with even printing my itinerary because it hardly matters anymore. Anyway, with a smile and nod, I was handed my boarding pass and pointed on my way, no exchanged words needed. Only after I had cleared security did I realize that I was only given one boarding pass instead of 3 as I might have expected (being as there were three legs to my flight). A minor detail, I thought, that I could easily work out at the Mexico city airport.

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I realized it wasn't going to be so minor. For one, I didn't know what airline I was transferring. A silly fact, I know, but an important one, it turns out. I knew I started on Mexicana and knew I was continuing on one of the biggies (Delta, American, or Contential) through somewhere in Texas (Houston or Dallas). That array creates an astounding number of permeations, which, when coupled with the two vastly separated terminals of Benito Juarez International Airport sent me on quite a goose chase. Finally, after an hour of roaming around, asking contridicting, but very smiley, information people, I got my boarding passes. Relieved, I asked the counter agent about paying my exit tax*. She vaguely mentions a bank location "somewhere downstairs" and hustles me away. So begins another goose chase.

I can't find a bank and am getting kind of getting tired of looking. Again, many helpful but ultimately uninformed information booth operators point me varoius directions with nothing doing, so I decide that when I need to pay something, I will be more explicitly told. In my experience, this usually happens when you go through pre-security or another ticket checker somewhere in the pipeline, so I proceeded. The ticket/passport checkers for my security checkpoint seemed to be on a gossip break, so I wasn't approached as I headed on my way. Cautious not to let my optimism about saving $25 run wild, I was wary that surely there would be a double check on this down the way. Afterall, didn't I have to let someone know I was leaving the country?

Next onto security*: upside, no lines; downside, over-anxious security personnel. First, they determined my fork to be questionable lethal so set it aside with a rapid Spanish explanation as to why. My broken attempt at conveying that I had already been on a flight that very same day with the very same fork failed to dissuade him. He must be in cahoots with that damn Jamaican that stole Loafy last year. Then they decided my juggling clubs were weapons with which I planned to raise an army against the flight attendents if I didn't get my choice of soda. This I would not stand for. I first attempted to explain the situation in Spanish: "Estos son clavas para hacer malabarismo. Queries una demonstracion? Los tuve en el vuelto esta manana y entrada el pias del avion CON estos. Cual is el problema?" That didn't work, either because I didn't convey myself properly or it wasn't a valid arguement. Next I requested an agent who spoke english so I could more properly explain/vent. He arrives, and, after tossing the club into the air and knocking it experimentally against his palm, he says the same thing in broken english that the woman before said in spanish: no pueden pasar.

I've never actually jumped up and down in frusteration before. Okay, maybe I have, but usually it is in a place where the gesture can be understood to be ironic or funny. Here, not so much. I did, however, manage to convey that I wanted to speak to the manager about this issue. By now, a group was developing. Yeehaw, another showdown.

The manager arrives and I can tell right away by his demeanor that he is on my side. He tosses the club in the air, spins it in his fingers, and jokingly asks something about the circus. Saved. With a nod and smile, he sends me on my way. The others gathered around all smile an apologetic smile and wish me a good trip. As I'm repacking my bag (juggling clubs, computer, pocketables, etc.) I see my fork unattended and grab it. I'm not letting go of Loafy II that easily. As I walk off to find my gate, I smile that knowing that standing up for myself has proven valueable again. Could this become a habit?

Checking in at that gate, the agent asks for my tourist card (the card which I was supposed to get stamped for $25 when I visited immigration to let them know I was leaving the country). I handed her the wad of papers that they handed me down on the Guatemalan border, try to look as innocent as possible. She flipped through it more than she had with other the passengers, but then gave a quick nod. I must not have seen or something because she then glanced up with a look that said you're-still-here? but politely said, "That's all." Now for sure I knew I had dodged the exit fee.

Sometimes disogranization can work for you and sometimes it can work against you. When it works for you, you smile at your triumph. When it works against, you're inclined to deride the lack of logic or effort or discipline that has caused it al. But in either case, looking back you end up with a story and there is definitely value in that.
Wednesday March 24 2010File under: travel, Mexico

Toggle Comments (2)comment?
on Wed 24th Mar, 2010 08:38 pm PDT Mom said:
So much for my advice on border crossings--but hey, "advanrage" ?? Was that intentional? Pretty great spoonerism!
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on Thu 25th Mar, 2010 06:14 am PDT Dave said:
This is great! Glad to hear it all worked out for you. Exit fees drive me insane - I'm glad you have more understanding for them (and the ability to dodge them!).
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