A typical day in the life of an American expat living in Mexico will include trying to find drinking water. You might be surprised by this but everyone knows that you cannot “drink the water in Mexico”. This refers to the fact that you cannot drink the tap water in Mexico. Probably every American adult already knows that you cannot drink the tap water. But does the typical American adult know just how one obtains drinking water in Mexico?
In a word: bottles!
The day in and day out routine in Mexico to obtain the liquid of life, that which is absolutely essential for survival, is that you must have bottled water. To meet this need, two companies where I live, Guanajuato, have sprung into being. To say that they are in competition with one another for customers, competition as Americans would define competition, would be a misnomer. That is to say, I think so.
The way this works is that the drinking-water employees walk through the streets of Guanajuato screaming all the livelong day, “Agua…agua…agua”. They punctuate the end of their musical-like screeching with the name of their company so you, the customer, will know whether you should run naked from the shower, sopping wet, to the nearest window to scream back, “A-G-U-A!”
So, picture this, if you will:
You are in the shower. You have just covered your body with a thick, foamy layer of soap. You are so white you look like a polar bear walking on its hind legs. In addition, you look like a polar bear walking on its hind legs that is also blind. This is because you have just lathered your hair with shampoo and you cannot see for fear of the searing, burning pain that will certainly ensue should you open your eyes even for God.
You are down to your last three ounces of bottled water and are in the shower when you hear the plaintiff screech coming from the alley,
“Agua…agua…agua Purificada!!” (Purficada is the name of one of the two companies.)
You go tearing out of the shower looking very frightening. You do this because you know that if you do not get to the nearest window and begin what sounds like a mating call between two torridly-in-love beasts, then you will lose out on getting water.
The result of any hesitation on your part will most likely result in not getting water—period!
Now let me extrapolate on this, with your permission.
The bottled-water guys never come two days in a row. The Apocalypse could be in mid-Apocalyptic frenzy and these guys will never, for love or money, come two days in a row to give you water during the Mother of all Wars. What I am saying is that they could come on a Monday, and if you do not load up on bottles of water then, you could be looking forward to dehydration as the mode of your imminent death.
Not only that, they may not even return to your neighborhood for weeks on end. For reasons known only to the employees of these two water companies, they simply do not engage in any sort of regular or predictable route. No one in this country, from “sea to shining sea” (from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean) knows why!
Here are some suggestions as to why they do not come—ever—to your house more than two days in a row.
1. Forget about you completely and figure that you moved or died.
2. Have some sort of passive-aggressive fit, “How dare them not scream back at me when I went to all this trouble to sing the agua love song to them from the alley…I will show them! Grrrr!”
3. Do not keep records mentally or on paper when someone last ordered water.
4. Make the assumption that you are getting your water some other way.
I do not know.
But, the point is, unless you have a car, and have the strength of Hercules, you cannot pop down to the store and get some water. These bottles are enormously heavy.
So, the next option is: USE THE TELEPHONE.
At the writing of these words, I have called five times and sent two emails to the company, “Agua Purficada”. Three and a half days later, they still haven’t shown up.
With each phone call, I have encountered someone who sounds sympathetic and like they actually care about the urgency that I feel because my life is ebbing away from lack of water. They promise that they will send someone who will be at my door in an hour. I am sitting here in mid-evening almost four days later with no water.
If you are going to live in this country, you will have to get used to this happening all the time, in all aspects of life here. There is nothing you can do about it. The bottled water company will bring you water when and if they think you need some water. That is the only thing I can tell you that makes any sense.
The horrible thing is that if you were Mexican, this would not happen to you. I realize what I am implying here but it is the sad truth. And mind you, I can speak the language. It is not a language barrier issue. I can communicate clearly, in Spanish, that I need water, where I live, and can’t you hurry I am dying here!
I immediately called my Mexican friends in town. They told me that they get water within minutes of making ONE phone call. Count it—ONE! I have made five calls and sent emails and I have nothing to show for it. One Mexican friend even asked me to repeat to her what I said to the water people. She said that should have done it, but alas, it did not.
Doug’s Mexican Living survival tip for getting your water is this:
Even if you are fully supplied with water, and hear the water guy coming, buy another bottle or two. Always have three full bottles in reserve! Always!