Riding the Subway in México City or Why it’s okay to ask for help

I walked up to the ticket window and half-confidently said to the women behind the glass, “un boleto, por favor”. I just wanted this to go as smoothly as possible.

She responded with what I can only assume was a polite and normal response yet the Spanish hit me with a speed that took all the wind out of my sails. I stood there picking out the words I knew and translating them into English. Slowly I was forming a skeleton of a sentence I could respond to.

I think she said “cinco pesos” but it could have been “veninticinco” or something else entirely. I wasn’t sure, but I counted out five pesos and dropped them into the coin receptacle. She looked at my response and replied, this time with much more clarity, “cinco”.

I stood there baffled and embarrassed as I picked up my coins. “Isn’t that five?” I thought, “no try six or…eight”.

A man behind me cleared his throat allowing me to brace for a New York City style “common buddy”. Instead, what he did was gently point to the coins in my hand that I needed.

This.

This.

This.

With each tap, the pressure lessened so I dropped those — and only those — coins in the tray got my ticket. I did it, I can keep going, and I did it with help.

Of course, 30 seconds later I tried to deposit that ticket into the wrong slot on the turnstile and couldn’t get through. “I’ll figure it out”, I thought.

Next to me I heard someone say “amigo amigo, aqui aqui”, I looked to acknowledge them and saw they were tapping on the correct place to place the ticket. I was way off. I did it their way, walked through, and responded with a humbled “gracias”.

I’m finding it’s a lot easier to just ask for help.

Monday I traveled by bus from Mexico City to Guadalajara. The trip was 100 times smoother than the trip from Austin to Mexico City probably because I asked questions like “is this the bus to Guadalajara?”.

When I arrived at the bus station, I hailed a Uber to take me to my AirBnB home. The driver pulled up, we greeted each other, and before he could say too much I spurted out “mi Español no es muy bueno”. Without hesitation, he responded (in damn good English) “I would love to practice English with a native speaker”. I laughed and we spent the next hour talking about his city, tensions between Uber and taxi drivers, and U2.

Making Moves

I’ll be in Guadalajara until the 19th when I’ll bus to Puerto Vallarta. On the 1st of December I’ll fly to New York City and around the middle of December I’ll meet up with my family to spend Christmas with them.


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