Anybody who has known me for even a short time knows I don’t like surprises. In fact, I really don’t like surprises. There is a reason I have never had a surprise party, and why I spent so much of my career doing strategic planning or scenarios exercises, all to eliminate or mitigate the effects of surprise.

Our LR mini-split sits serenely

So the past few weeks have been a lesson in patience as I deal with some surprises. The first came when we contracted to have two mini-split style air conditioning units installed in our casa: one in the living room, one in the bedroom. As I previously posted, the a/c is only necessary  for a few weeks in May and June, but we figured why endure even that if it’s not necessary? The vendor came from Guadalajara; he told us it would take a little more than a day to complete. Today we are on day three, stretching over the weekend, because they ran out of cable on Friday, but that is no longer surprising after a year in Mexico. What was a surprise was late on day one, when I heard the vendor yelling “Señor, señor! El Agua!” I ran outside, where they were installing the condenser unit on top of my bodega. There was the youngest member of the team, valiantly sitting on top of the ledge and pushing with all his strength on a power drill, while water gushed straight up at him from the water pipe he had just drilled through.

Picture a young man kneeling on that ledge…
The blue pipe was agua

Did I mention it was a power drill? As in an electrical device, still plugged in? Surrounded by gushing water?  Visions of lawsuits danced in my head, but then I remembered this is Mexico, and a lawyer is not the first resort in every case. We got the young man and the drill out of harm’s way, then went to turn off the water. Now I had been told that the water shutoff was built into the carport floor, clearly marked agua. But when we opened it, (surprise!) there was a customized handle which we did not have the right key to turn off the water. It seems this is a municipal shut-off, not my home water shut-off. The water kept pouring out, luckily only in my carport and down the drain. We went searching for someone who might know where the shut-off was, and finally found the community groundskeeper, who calmly walked up to my exterior wall hedge, reached in, and turned off the water. Of course!

Not this one!
This one!






I never would have imagined a water line in the roof of my bodega (or a shut-off valve in my hedge), but it turns out that was where the builders ran the line to get water to my rooftop mirador. When all your utility lines are built into a stucco and brick structure, you can’t just tap on the wall or use a stud finder to see what’s underneath. So the vendor just drilled and hoped for the best; it worked well on the other three holes they drilled. We had a plumber come out and cap the line (for the moment). As I was typing this, the vendor just came to tell me my fuze box is configured differently than he expected, so now we have an electrician coming to address that. I am betting on day four.

Meanwhile, we are preparing for a possible visit back to the States to see our kids and grandkids.  I say possible because while I have airline tickets, I don’t yet have authorization from the Mexican government to leave. See I was on a one year temporary visa, set to expire February 1st, but I wanted to apply for a permanent resident visa (same as my dear wife already has). I knew we were planning a January visit, so I started the paperwork early in September: thus I would have my Permanente all done well beforehand. When we hit early December with no final status, I knew I was in trouble: Mexico goes on holiday from early December through January 6th, and I was flying January 11th!

Luckily, the Mexican government faces this issue all the time, so they have a procedure set up for gringos to apply for a special exception which lets us leave the country (and return) while we are still in process for our visa. I started my paper work the second week of December, and it usually take a week to complete, but I ran into the same holiday problem: no one at work to process my exception. Now, someone in my situation can always just get up and go and ignore the paperwork; no one is keeping me here. But if I leave without a visa or an exception, my status upon returning to Mexico is Tourist and I get to start the process all over again!

Final Update: sorry to those who saw this post earlier this week, before I finished it. I thought I was previewing it for editing, and I hit the publish button instead. So, the air conditioning team did finish on day three, despite my prediction. And today I got my special exception permit, so I can legally leave and return. I said many prayers this past week for patience, trusting it would all work out, and it did.  I still have a lot of room to grow in terms of patience, but then again, can you ever have too much?

2 thoughts on “Surprise!”

  1. This is Old Hat for you. I mean you worked in the Pentagon for years. Supporting ODCSOPS was full of these uncertainties. Remember the hyper-ventilating when the Army Chief of Staff said he wanted details on the threat we would face…, thirty years into the future?

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