Now for those of you living in the US or Canada, getting a postcard in the mail might not be a big deal. But, trust me, to get one in Mexico, delivered to your house for free, is a rare thing indeed. Home mail delivery in my neck of the Mexican central highlands comes only to the truly blessed.
Sure, you SEE guys zipping around on motorbikes painted in the Mexican Postal Service’s signature colors of white, green, and pink, but like the electrical meter readers hereabouts, you never see them actually DO anything other than pass you by. The mailmen I see are always just seemingly riding down the main drags in the pueblos enjoying the world’s second greatest climate.
By the way, this “world’s second greatest climate” thing is attributed to National Geographic and is one of those catch-phrases that local real estate agents and braggarts like to cite when trying to sell you a house or explaining to you why you too should move to Lake Chapala. (They’re often the same person.) But I’ll be damned if I can find the original article anywhere. I’m starting to think that like that whole “Richard Gere and the gerbil” thing, it’s just a great urban pueblo legend.
But I digress. We were speaking of receiving postcards at your home address in Mexico. And, up until Novenber 3, 2010, I would have sworn that it just couldn’t happen here at Lake Chapala. And, yet, only ONE MONTH after it was mailed from Petrified Forest National Park, a semi-obscene postcard arrived in my mailbox. Well, the postcard itself wasn’t semi-obscene — it was, after all, a picture of something at Petrified Forest. But the messages from Jerry and Dom contained thereon were just loaded with sexual innuendo, which is not an easy thing to do in a writing space that small. (Wait a minute! I just looked at the postcard again. Maybe it IS semi-obscene!)
Since most of us expats can’t get our mail via the Mexican Post Office, we use mail-forwarding services. I, for example, use MailBoxes, Etc. (MBE) which has an office inside a hotel in the next largest pueblo east of me, San Juan Cosala. I don’t rent one of their postal boxes since I don’t get a lot of mail, but it’s still expensive to receive mail there. For a normal-sized envelope or a postcard, I pay $30MX (about $2.50US at today’s exchange rate). For an 8-1/2×11 manila envelope, I pay $60MX. A couple of years ago, my son sent me a small book and a calendar in a large manila envelope. He probably paid, with an employee discount for the calendar, about $15US for the gifts. Presumably because the great weight of the envelope made for an emcumbrance on the mode of transport (whatever that may be), it cost me about $16US to receive the envelope. Since then, I have begged my friends in the US not to send me any gifts….I just can’t afford it! If I’m gonna pay $16US for something, it’s gonna be for a fifth of Early Times.
If you’re wondering why I don’t just rent a mailbox at the Jocotepec Post Office, you’ve obviously never tried to convince an American business (e.g. bank, credit card company) to mail your monthly statement to Mexico. The phone conversations go something like this:
Big American Company: Thank for you calling blah-blah company. This is Hildy. How may I assist you?
Me: I’d like to change my mailing address please.
BAC: Certainly. May I have your account information?
Me: Yes, it’s blah blah blah.
BAC: And to what address would you now like to have your statements mailed?
Me: I live in Mexico. This is my new address…..
BAC (interrupting): So you now live in New Mexico?
Me: No, I live in the country of Mexico.
BAC (long pause): What is your zip code?
Me: I don’t have a zip code. I no longer live in the United States.
BAC (condescendingly): Ms. Hopkins, everyone has a zip code.
Me: In the US, yes, they do. But here we don’t have zip codes, although we do have some kind of code in the address.
BAC (irritated): Fine, fine. Why don’t you just give me that code which is NOT a zip code.
Me: Okay, it’s 45801.
BAC: So you’re in Lima, Ohio? I thought you said you lived in New Mexico.
And so it goes. And that’s why I have an MBE address in Laredo, Texas, and why it was such a thrill to get a postcard at my house in MEXICO! It’s really the small things that make my day.