WELCOME TO MEXICO!
By Victoria Schmidt
The handwritten sign on the door says “Cerrado.” Sometimes there is no sign at all. Many stores, restaurants, and other businesses here have posted hours, but that seems to be all for show. When I first moved to Mexico, shopping sometimes seemed an insurmountable challenge. I had to find the store that carried what I needed—which wasn’t always an easy task. Then I needed to make sure I knew how to ask for what I wanted in Spanish, and then I’d head out to the store. I had my list, I knew what I was looking for, and I was prepared and confident. Until I got to the store and found it closed. “Closed!” I thought, “It’s the middle of the day! Who ever heard of closing a store for two hours in the middle of the day?” I hadn’t been here long enough to understand about the custom of an afternoon meal with the family and a siesta. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that between the hours of 2:00-4:00 p.m., many of the stores are closed. Now I avoid shopping during that time.
I remember my absolute delight at finding a yarn store in Chapala on a side street off Madero. We drove by it one day and I made sure I checked the hours so that I’d be able to shop at the right time. Little good that did me. Painted on the wall were the hours: 8:00-2:00, 4:00-8:00. I walked to the store one morning around 11:00. Closed. I stopped by later at 4:00. Closed. I tried again at 4:30. Still closed. I soon realized that the hours painted on the wall had nothing to do with the actual hours of operation.
I’ve gone to restaurants, planning to meet someone, only to be greeted by a closed sign. Oops. Of course, their day off wasn’t posted. And even if it were posted, could I trust it? I started making back-up plans when we go out to eat.
We came home late one night from a medical trip to Guadalajara. Tired from a day of fighting traffic in Guadalajara and tapping my foot in the waiting room (aptly named as our wait was nearly two hours) the last thing I wanted to do was cook. So my husband and I talked about stopping at our local pizza place near our house. Exhausted and hungry, we drove by the restaurant, and…you guessed it—it was closed. But now, we had a back-up plan. We’d stop at the hamburger stand around the corner. Yes, you are ahead of me, it, too, was closed. We had peanut butter and jelly at home.
I am no longer amazed that so many stores have their grand opening and closing sales so close together.
The owner of the aforementioned hamburger stand is out of town for a few days, and his stand is closed. He’s at a family wedding. On the night of our Guadalajara trip, he was celebrating his birthday, and before that, another big family wedding. I watch him, and I think, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a business, where you can just flip off the lights and take the day off? This would never happen “up north,” where stores and restaurants seem to have to stay open every second of every day. Forcing employees to work on weekends, holidays, and begging for time off. Meanwhile, the hamburger stand owner is partying with his family. Taking time to be with his relatives, sharing the most important and meaningful events of their lives.
Isn’t that more important than cooking hamburgers?