5 Things I Learned About Mexico City
- There is mucho making out. You thought Paris was the city of lovers? Au contraire, mes chers; it's Mexico City.
- It is not a city of morning people. Do not try to go to the coffee place at 8 a.m., because it will be closed, and you will be sorely disappointed. Take your time, sleep in. There's no rush here.
- I had heard vague reports of the crime in Mexico City, and so we took the main precautions (holding onto our purses, not hailing cabs on the street). But I was surprised by just how much of a police presence there was everywhere. I never felt unsafe, because on every corner you could find not one, but five or more police officers, all decked out in their riot gear--plastic leg and body armor, helmets, even holding those giant plastic shields. Unsettling, perhaps, but better than the alternative, I suppose.
- Every American visiting Mexico knows not to drink the water. Easy enough, right? But no! Not when this seemingly simple rule leads to a murky gray area of ever more mystifying questions, like, well, what about margaritas? My guidebook touted a number of restaurants and cantinas known for their margaritas, without mentioning the fact that typically, margaritas are served with...ice. So, are you supposed to order your margarita...without ice? What about coffee? Yet another beverage described in loving detail by ye olde guidebook. Brewed with, what else, water, but...it's hot, right? So that's ok? But not necessarily boiling hot, so here we are back at square uno. And what about...soup? If boiled es bueno, but what if it's just warm? Some quick googling revealed that, purportedly, anyway, most establishments used to dealing with tourists use purified water in their coffee, etc. We agreed that we would be careful without going overboard; we would brush our teeth with bottled water but drink the damn coffee. All of which backfired in a major way on our last full day in town. Exhausted, parched, and in need of a sweet treat and a sit-down, we went to our favorite ice cream chain (yes, we had a favorite). Rather than a scoop I ordered a frappe, not knowing whether I had ordered a milkshake or something different. It arrived as a frozen coffee drink with mounds of yummy whipped cream (think Starbucks frappaccino), which was fine with me. It wasn't until I was slurping up the last dregs that I thought, Hey, you know what this is made with? Ice. It would have been relatively ok had I been within stumbling distance of our hostel, but as it was, there were about two hours of bus-to-metro-to-metro travel separating us. That was...not fun.
- Many metro lines have women and children only cars at the front of the train. This is useful to know if you are a woman, for obvious reasons. Plus these cars are generally less crowded, which makes for a more relaxing experience. Also, it was fairly hilarious to see that at least one in three women present were studiously applying their makeup with the aid of hand mirrors--bumps, rattles, and lurches notwithstanding. However, not every line has these cars, and not every metro experience was as peaceful and relaxing as the one I described. In fact, there was one time when Molly and I almost died. Our stop arrived, the doors opened, and Molly, being the only Spanish speaker of our duo, started tapping on shoulders and politely murmuring, "con permiso." It quickly became evident that this was an under-reaction of the grandest degree, as a literal wave of Mexicans pushed their way onto the metro car, with us caught in the middle. Politeness quickly turned to mute terror as flesh pressed us roughly from all sides, and I thought to myself, This is how people suffocate in crowds. This is how people DIE. We attempted to push our way out, as the hoard of, well, mostly five foot tall little old Mexican ladies outside even more determinedly fought their way in. I stood head and shoulders above the rest, but my lungs, my vital organs, remained firmly in the danger zone, pushed and pulled and punched on all sides by this fierce cadre of abuelitas. I made eye contact with one of the hoard, my panic and terror clearly showing on my face, and I swear she shrugged. One final, fraught effort and finally, miraculously, we were deposited out the doors of the cursed metro with all the force of a cresting wave spitting a drowning person onto shore. Gasping, rattled, we looked at each other in disbelief. "People be crazy," I summarized, and we continued on our way.