Each morning I rode the elevator down to the lobby and walked outside to sit on a bench out front waiting for my ride. From where I sat I could see a large Wal Mart-esque shopping center, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and an Applebee’s. The view from my hotel room facing the other direction was better. The breeze was warm. The birdsong was foreign and I think it was rendered by grackles.
At 7:30 AM the dirty little pickup would rattle up and skid to a stop under the awning before the double glass doors of the hotel. The driver would climb out, toss a cigarette aside, then nod at me as he disappeared inside. Shortly after he would return with four or five other men. They were all from Texas. Our bags would be tossed in the back of the truck and we would squeeze inside for the ten minutes of death defying transport to the manufacturing facility. The others chattered away in Spanish. I clung to the handle over the door as if my life depended on it. It likely did.
The police vehicles seemed to drive with their lights flashing all the time. One I saw was an armored truck with a big machine gun mounted in the back.
I spent my days in a conference room with white boards on two walls. On my first day, a Tuesday, all of the employees, even the Texans, wore navy-colored shirts. The second day they were all in khaki. I asked one of the men who spoke good English how they knew what color shirt to wear. He explained it is a schedule; Monday was white, then blue, then khaki, etc. I nodded. “So you don’t all text each other in the morning and make plans for what to wear then, eh?” I said. He didn’t seem amused, but I was.
Having just read Jim Harrison on the plane trip south, I expected to be troubled by efforts not to look at lovely round Mexican asses all week and I hoped I wouldn’t be too obvious about it. That sounds lewd, I know, but I’m unabashedly an ass man and I’m married to a woman who has been known to point them out to me. Yet I hardly noticed. I was captivated by so much jet black hair and dark, dark eyes. Not just the women, but many of the men too. And the music of being surrounded at all times by the lilt of a tongue I could only understand one word of in about fifty.
The restrooms in this old building were up the stairs and to the left. The men’s room wasn’t filthy, but it wasn’t exactly clean either. Only the cold faucet worked, and the water struggled to flow even from there. I had hoped that in Mexico all the janitorial work would be performed by white dudes with silver hair and cufflinks, but I was disappointed. The short, stern woman who performed the clean-up duties in this place was at work one time in the men’s room when I arrived to put it to use. Rather than interrupt her, I detoured into the women’s room (these were single rooms with locks, so there was no risk of walking in on someone). This cell was even dirtier; the single toilet lacked not only a lid, but a seat, and the rim was grimy. I certainly wouldn’t adhere to a dress code for someone who couldn’t be bothered to put a seat on my shitter.
Day three, Thursday, my last day, was a brighter blue shirt day. I knew that no matter what happened, I was out of there for good at day’s end, and nothing was going to get me down. Then I realized I would never know what color the Friday shirt was. I was disappointed.
I guess we have a kind of “business casual” dress code where I work too, but I’m never there. I’m good for holding up the bargain for at least one day on each of these work trips, but then, depending on the environment I’m in, I let it slide. I am, in many ways, unfit to be employed by anyone.
The usual driver picked me up early Friday morning to deliver me to the airport for the flight home. He was sniffling and sneezing and coughing and I was convinced that, after months of stiff arming the illnesses of people around me, he would be the one to give me a cold. He was wearing a company shirt.
It was black.
I still haven’t gotten sick.