Lucy's Shopping List
“Why,” my wife inquired,” don’t you want to go to el Grito?”
El Grito is the annual Mexican Independence Day celebration.
My objections were twofold: the event took place at eleven at night (well after my bedtime); and there would be tens of thousands of people packed into the small square, many of them drunk and/or sneezing (crowds, drunks and germs—my three favorite things).
She said yes. I said no. She said, “How often does a country celebrate two-hundred years of independence?”
I said, “Every two hundred years?”
By five minutes to eleven we were standing wedged inside a crowd so tightly packed my immediate neighbours and I could have been sharing the same clothes. Everyone was sneezing and a pair of small children had taken possession of my shins.
To make a short story even shorter, el Grito was a huge yawn.
Then it was time for the “quick” drive home. The night of el Grito happened to coincide with the last Saturday night of San Miguel’s annual Feria (something like a county fair), and the entire town seemed to be driving there en masse. Of course, in order to get home we had to drive past the entrance to the fairgrounds.
When we were still a quarter mile from the Feria, the traffic suddenly congealed into a solid mass of metal, bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see.
“We never should have left the house,” I whined.
“Don’t be such a grump,” Lucy said. “At least I’m driving; all you have to do is sit there and enjoy the ride.”
“What ride? A ride is when you’re moving.”
“You’re not having fun?” Lucy asked with a malicious grin.
“Honey, this is more fun than making number two in an airplane bathroom.”
One hour (and two hundred yards) later, we finally inched our way up to the Feria. The ordeal was nearly over. Once we passed the congested entrance, we were practically home.
Then we saw the true cause of the gridlock, a nasty multi-car accident, the aftermath of which was blocking the entire road. A policeman informed us that we would have to get off the paved road, follow the other cars up a dirt road, and find our way back onto the highway “somewhere up ahead”.
The dirt road we’d been directed onto was lined on both sides with rows of parked cars, and suffocating under a thick cloud of dust. Soon we’d left the lights of the Feria behind us. I began to feel like the survivor of a shipwreck, drifting off into the unknown.
After a while we noticed that many of the cars in front of us were pulling over and parking. And then we noticed that there were no cars in front of us.
“Maybe we’ve been following the wrong people,” Lucy opined.
“Sounds like the Tea Party,” I grumbled. “Where the hell are we, anyway?”
“How should I know?”
It was well after one am by now, and we were driving down a pitch black dirt road in the middle of nowhere, alone, unprotected and growing increasingly nervous. “Maybe we should turn around.”
“Good idea,” Lucy said. But then something appeared in the headlights. My wife stopped the car, and we were approached at once by two heavily armed soldiers, who didn’t look particularly happy to see us. But we were happy to see them; we were desperately in need of directions.
“Thank God!” I said. “Maybe they can tell us how to get out of here.” Leaning out the window, I said, “Hey, how do we get out of here?”
The soldiers had taken up positions on either side of the car, pointing their automatic weapons more or less at the ground. “Get out of your vehicle,” one of them said. That was when I noticed the windsock and the concrete circle. Unbelievably, we had managed to stumble upon an army helipad!
We exited the car and began to explain how we’d been ordered off the road and were trying to find our way back…
“Are you carrying any drugs,” the soldier demanded, “or guns, or anything else illegal?”
“Not that we know of,” I said.
“Open the trunk.”
My wife dutifully complied. Then, standing there in total darkness, Lucy asked the soldier, “Don’t you have a flashlight?”
“No,” the soldier said. “What’s in there?”
My wife, you must understand, never goes anywhere without her ice chest, and prior to el Grito she had done some serious shopping at the local Farmer’s Market.
“Okay, let’s see,” Lucy told the soldier, “I’ve got arugula…”
“Aruga-what?” the soldier demanded.
“Arugula,” Lucy said, “you know, the aromatic salad green? Then I’ve got some Babaganoosh, organic…”
“Babaga-nude?” the confused soldier said.
“Babaganoosh,” Lucy replied. “It’s a dip made with eggplant.”
I could not see the soldier’s face in the dark, but I could plainly hear the dismay in his voice.
“What else?” he asked.
“Organic tomatoes,” Lucy resumed, “organic carrots, organic sweet potatoes, organic huevos and…oh, here’s a bag of organic peanuts. Would you like some? No? Okay, we’ve also got organic cucumbers, bean sprouts, um…I know there’s more, but I can’t remember. Could I consult my shopping list?”
No, no, no!” the soldier cried. “Just get out of here!”
As we pulled away I congratulated my wife on driving the soldiers nuts.
“Thank you,” she replied. “But I know there was something else. Did you notice me carrying a bag of organic oranges?”
“Great,” I sighed, “now it’s my turn.”