LIFE IS A GAS IN SAN MIGUEL, MEXICO

If you think you have nothing left to learn at age seventy-—think again. I learned two invaluable lessons this week while vacationing in Mexico. It took an emergency for me to absorb them.For the last three years we have opted to find housing through airbnb in our trips to San Miguel, Mexico. Each year it has worked beautifully. Until this year.Two days ago we jumped across the dog crap on the sidewalk and entered our rental apartment for the first time  that was misportrayed on line. The pictures were totally deceiving. In fact it was not that much cheaper than the near palace we had last year. We were sent the keys by mail. We discovered the place was tiny, dirty and  had no essentials like toilet paper, towels, hair dryer, front door that closed, and storage space (nearly all the cupboards were  padlocked) we tried to find a phone number. Finally we found one on a dirty scrap of paper affixed to the fridge. When we called we found out we were talking to a person in California who was not the owner. She leases for the season and has sublet to us. (She rents for six months and our two weeks of high season is paying for her whole stay!) The real owner owns sixty apartments and is a slum landlord who lives in San Miguel. He does not answer his phone.( Of course.) The sublet person blamed all the problems on the cleaning lady who was non existnet.The person who sublet to us  demanded all the money up front for our two week stay. The owner is a big conglomerate and big conglomerates have big lawyers. We were screwed. We came face to face with the downside of Airbnb. Suddenly a hotel sounded perfect but it was too late. Everything for a fifty miles radius was full. You think this is bad. just wait!The next day I was in my underwear (sorry for T.M.I. but a necessary part of the story) reading in bed. Suddenly I heard a huge explosion and a whooshing sound like standing next to Niagara Falls and then the room was engulfed with the smell of gas. My husband, fully clothed and reading in the living room, screamed, “Gas explosion. Major gas leak, Get out now!” My husband who is never melodramatic (that is my department) screamed, “Now, now, it is going to blow up any second and we could die!” As he was thundering down the stairs and gas was buzzing in my ears and filling my lungs I was struck with a dilemma. Did I want to die in this gas explosion or run out in the busiest street in San Miguel at the age of seventy in my white underpants and bra. Of course everyone over fifty knows the choice in this dilemma. I choseDeath.  As the gas filled the room and I had trouble breathing, I donned my blouse, pants and even my shoes. I skipped lipstick since it was an emergency.My husband was on the street screaming “gas explosion” and clearing the busy street. It was my job to run into the posh hotel across the street and call the equivalent of 911. I ran in so fast I did not notice that there were glass doors as they were clean ( unlike our place) and had no wire grate. I ran into the doors full speed and bounced back on the street. (Everyday I was there the doorman imitated me bouncing off the closed door when I walked past.) I still have a black and blue mark on my forehead.The gas men came in trucks with screaming sirens and with my husband  cleared the street and evacuated all apartments near ours. Gas-emergency-Men in masks ran up and down the street yelling in Spanish. (see picture with my husband, Michael, who knows nothing about gas leaks, is directing) Finally a gas emergency man donned in an explosion proof blow-up suit that made him look like the Michelin tire man. He fought his way through the gas to the roof and found that someone had jerry-rigged the gas tank valve with their own repair of plastic to cover a leak. This particular day was hot and the gas expanded in the tank and blew the jerry-rigged cap off and gas filled the house. The gas men said these giant tanks are only good for ten years and it was now thirty years old and had had makeshift repairs over the years and they insisted we needed a new tank.  We said we would leave if the owner didn’t put in a new tank. The spokesman for the owner said ‘Adios Amigos.” They still have the money from the renter. We were the sublet. I’ll spare you the entire story but let it be known that the landlord paid no attention to the written order. They jerry-rigged it  yet again, and the owner refused to buy a new water tank. We are helpless unless we wanted to fly home and give up all we have spent on round-trip tickets, etc. I got a real taste of what people feel like who are helpless with nowhere to go (everything for miles around was full) and had to settle for a substandard domain and a cruel, selfish prick of a landlord can rule your life. I’m lucky I don’t live with it every day.The other lesson I learned was more complicated. It was not really a lesson but a message I’d absorbed about body image. During emergencies people react with their gut– not their mind. As an older woman I know society says, “Your body is totally done by fifty. Don’t under any circumstances, including risk of death, show it publically. When you think about it, when was the last time you saw an older woman’s nude body on television or in a movie. You see every other combination of body and sexuality. All those taboos have been broken but not this one. I’d learned my lesson well.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *