Recently, I read that Mexico is the country with the lowest minimum wage per hour: 0.79 USD. (In comparison: Chile with 2.43 USD and Hungary with 2.54 USD). And they say that by the end of Calderon’s ministry, more than 50% of all Mexicans will live in poverty.
But when it comes to money, people here are very creative. They come up with all sorts of jobs and frankly, I admire their hands-on attitude.
When you park at a parking lot, there are people who wave you into the parking spots and you tip them a few pesos. Sometimes I wished though, that I could tip them for shutting up, since they like to blow a whistle while swinging little flags – now that may be a great help, but most cars nowadays come with a parking aid. Which is good, since those guys are often so tiny that I cannot see them in my rear mirror. Just before I am about to run that little guy over, my parking aid gives me the signal to stop. But can you imagine the noise of countless waving whistlers and the constant beeping of the parking aids of multiple cars in a garage? It is like a carnival! But of course, you thank them and give them some coins, and they seem to feel like the rulers of the parking lots.
In addition to that, most garages have people who will wash your car for you while you are doing the shopping. I have never used this service, but I see that they are actually doing a great job! So off you go have a manicure, sip a coffee with friends, buy some new shoes, and when you get back, your car is all clean and shiney. But if you cannot make up your mind right there in the garage, you don’t have to worry, because people pass through the neighbourhoods offering a carwash service at home, too.
I however, always drive to a car wash. There I can drop the car off and pick it up after half an hour. They have like three to four people cleaning the inside of your car – honestly, my car has never been as clean as in Mexico!
When you park outside, there are then the guys, who will cover your windscreen with a sun shade, so when you get back, it won’t be 150 degrees but only 140 degrees inside your car. Of course, they have a limited supply of sunshades (some only use some cardboard box leftovers, but who cares?), so you can see them running back and forth in the heat trying to pick the cars that look like they might be owned by generous drivers. That’s the reason why it might take quite some time for them to return while you are waiting for them to remove the shades…
Of course, those guys don’t make an awful lot of money, but they do earn a few bucks during the day. And I was touched to see that even they still tip their fellow workmen at the supermarket cash registers – because at each cash register, there will be someone who puts your groceries into bags and it is common to tip them as well. Very often, those jobs are done by children, since we must not forget that school education is optional. After a while, you know their faces and you do a little chitchat with them, and some of them are quite nosy, studying every single item that you bought, sometimes nodding with approval, sometimes shaking their heads in disbelief (chocolate flavoured dog treats? Silly strangers…).
Outside the supermarkets there are people waiting to help you bring your shopping to the car and who will also collect the carts. They hardly take no for an answer. So if you walk out of the supermarket just carrying bits and pieces and you don’t want to use their services, they will follow you anyway, zigzagging amidst the cars until you open the boot of your car, then they jump out to give you a hand – and to hold out their hand for some tip.
So if you have a bit of cash on you when going shopping (which you should always do anyway in Mexico), you hardly have to do anything by yourself. I still have to get used to it, but a lot of people are prancing about like kings and queens, graciously handing out a few silver coins here and there.
On your way home, you will pass newspaper vendors at almost every crossroad. They just stand by the roads and if they see someone waving at them, they come running – honestly, it must be quite a strenuous exercise! Also at the crossroads, you will see people selling stuff like juices or sandwiches – those are the jobs that a lot of women and children do.
If you need to refuel your car and you approach a petrol station, it might be confusing in the beginning since there are so many people waving at you at all the various petrol pumps. So you have to pick one and then there might be up to four people working on your car. One is taking care of the refuelling process, one is cleaning your windshield and windows, one is polishing your rims while the last one might be checking on your oil level or tire pressure. Lately, I have seen a lot of young ladies doing these jobs and I suspect that is for attracting more male drivers. Smart move!
I wonder what happens next time I go back to Europe for a visit. Probably I will be waiting at the cash register for someone to put my groceries in a bag and carry it to my car, and there is a slight chance I might bump into other cars upon leaving the parking lot since by now, I am so used to whistle blowers and flag swingers!