On a year’s sabbatical from teaching, I planned to drive my VW bus, loaded for a six-month stay, into Mexico, where I’d attend a nearby university in a small town south of Mexico City, a short drive away. I was renting a room with cooking appliances, so piled pots/pans/ and dishes/towels/etc. into the van along with our suitcases of clothes. When one is taking two children and self for a six-month stay somewhere, “must have” items begin to pile up. That van was jammed to the gills. I was well-prepared for the border stop, had my Sanborn’s travel book to help us drive south safely, and had made money arrangements. What could go wrong?
Things seemed normal, until a tall, well-medaled officer puffed his way up to the car. I was standing outside it by now, somewhat concerned about the delay. He demanded that I completely empty the car so the boxes and bins I had could be inspected. I wanted to cry. I had so much junk piled into that car, it would take an act of Congress to get it all back inside. I looked at Mr. Mighty. I sighed. Then I began what I’d often used before when in Mexico. In broken Spanish, I started a string of sentences: “I am a teacher. I am going to go to college in your wonderful country. Mexico is beautiful, your people are so friendly, and so welcoming. The land is so lovely, I’m going to show my children, my young children, around your country.” This went on and on; he just watched me stammer over the language divide.
A new officer came, obviously wondering why the hold-up of traffic. I began my litany of praise for Mexico again, thanking a literary heavenly being for making some words very similar in English and Spanish. Within seconds, the new officer turned to the first one and read him some sort of riot act, apologized voluminously to me, and apologized a third or fourth time and waved me on. With a big smile on my face, I didn’t look at my sons but just drove south. Mexico, here I come!