Yesterday we joined the herd of Americans strolling across the border into Algodones, Mexico, from Yuma, Arizona, as if it’s from a parking spot at Wal-Mart. A few take the option of driving over but it seems most park their cars along the highway or in the parking lot on the Indian reservation at the border for the $5.00 fee. Our purpose for this visit was a dentist appointment. Our teeth, our eyes and our drug needs motivate a high percentage of us visitors. This ritual of migration of Americans back and forth each day during the winter provides a livelihood for scores of Mexican people who also travel from their homes in various towns in their own country and some from their homes in the U. S. as well. Although mere curiosity drives a few of the gringos, most everyone participating in this parade has an economic reason, selling or buying a service or a product. And, without any scientific survey, it seems to be working out.
On other trips we’ve acquired various goods, such as, inexpensive prescription medicine, good tequila or silver jewelry. On this particular day we had a positive experience at the dentist. It helps to have some kind of referral as the dental offices seem to be every ten feet. We chose Dr. Roberto Arce on the recommendation of our rver friends, Julie and John Black.
It turns out he also commutes from his home in Mexicali 50 miles away because of the clientele this town attracts. At our first appointment he explained very specifically the options for Nancy’s broken front tooth and then put in a temporary filling. This gave us time to think about whether to do some cosmetic corrections by getting crowns or to have the broken tooth fixed with a filling. Let’s see, prettier teeth at a super great price --- we chose the crowns. Now fast forward past the temporary crowns to today’s final visit.
Roberto is very professional, articulate and takes care of the concerns of his patients. He’s working very hard to build his own practice after four years with a group of dentists. Our visit ended with smiles all around!!
The last step in this adventure of “Algodones-For-A-Day” is to get into the line to pass back over the border into the U. S. After completing whatever goals one has for the trip, the focus turns to how long the wait will be this time. As you walk down the passageway of racks and shelves of blankets, purses, necklaces and ceramics, with merchants tempting you all the way with their bargaining skills, your eyes gaze ahead to find the end of the line of mostly over-55s, mostly carrying plastic bags holding their purchases. Are we going to be at least at the point on the sidewalk where the awning is overhead or will we have a lengthier wait in the sun today??? As we approached this day we were somewhat early, around 11:30 a.m., since we hadn’t stopped at the popular fish tacos stand for lunch or to do any bargain shopping. Great! The line is just half way down the road, maybe only a 30-40 minute wait. Speaking of that, Jerry actually heard a report on the local news in Yuma the other day of the length of the wait in line in Algodones. Just like the traffic reports at rush hour in your major city.
Of course, as we shuffle our way forward we can’t help but observe the creeping line of those who drove their vehicles over the border, slowly coasting along next to us. And since most of us on foot become acquainted with the strangers ahead and behind who are sharing this common experience, these drivers become a favorite topic of conversation. Do they get insurance for a day? Where do they park anyway? Is it safe? Have you ever tried it? And the most important question – Is that a faster method? Some of us have measured a particular vehicle from our vantage point to the vehicle crossing, but how do you know how long they were in that line that stretches around the bend behind us? No one has the real answer. So we are back to our task, inching our way to the border. And then there are always the people who have various reasons to try to cut into the line or go ahead around us all. For instance, what happened the other day, “I need to pass to get help for a sick lady back there.” Before we knew it, with all the interesting happenings surrounding this phenomena, it 's our turn to pass the gauntlet. There we were, standing perched at the entrance to the small temporary building with three customs agents at desks inside, waiting for one of the officials to raise his/her eyes toward us and say “Next.” It happens and we each advance separately and show our passport. It’s time to be ready with the answer to “What are you bringing across today?” Don't exceed the limitation per person on certain products, such as, 60 days of any one drug, one liter bottle of liquor or two Gucci purses or pairs of sunglasses. Don't want to have to go back into the city to return the overage. Some seasoned veterans of this rodeo have been known to bring "mules" along who help out with the extra load. But on this trip we weren't even packing, so we were immediately cleared. So much for another "Algodones-For-A-Day” escapade. Good luck to all of tomorrow’s participants.