Many of my memories of Mexico are of the cold. The whole Northern half of Mexico has a wintertime that those who only know Mexican stereotypes aren’t aware of. If you drive north from the beaches of La Paz, Cancún, and Zihuatlanejo, you’ll find a Mexico that often freezes from October to March, and a people who huddle against the cold.
A fellow named Jim and I were on a bus crossing the Sierra Madre into the central plateau when we ran into snow. After creeping along the winding two-lane road for scary hours the driver decided the better part of valor was wisdom and stopped at a restaurant. It wasn’t in a town, it was one of these restaurants that really only services travelers. Several buses, maybe five, had decided to weather the worst of the storm there so it was packed, wall to wall with travelers, all of us with detoured plans, wondering how long this might last, how bad this might get. What if we had to spend several days here?
The waiters behind the bar, in front of the mirror that stretched behind them, were obviously harried. They had given up trying to please people, what with most of their food gone, and they had entered “self-defense” mode; ignoring most of the patrons as they tried to fill the orders they already had.
After waiting in the shuffling line for the bathroom Jim and I found a place along a wall to stand. At least it wasn’t outdoors. Most of us hadn’t dressed for the snowstorm and even the body heat of all the travelers hadn’t warmed up the restaurant. As we stood still and simply waited I noticed, in the mirror behind the wait staff, two other white people immersed in the lines of Mexicans. “Huh,” I thought, “what are those two poor souls doing here? I bet they had no idea what they were in for.” I craned my neck to see where they were and one of the white guys in the mirror craned his neck at the same time.