Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Feb. 26
- Community Blog
The Kindness of Strangers Part 2
My leg was beginning to sting a little when the doctor and a nurse came in. I’m assuming he was a doctor and she a nurse; I’m not sure what the qualifications are to work at a Red Cross clinic in Mexico. I tried to relax into it, there wasn’t a lot I could do at this point.
I wish they’d let Kathy be in here too, a witness to whatever is going to happen. The nurse helped hold my leg down while the doctor took a look, and cleaned the wound; I looked away, like when I get a blood test in the hospital. He got rid of some of the pus that was oozing from the round skin souffle on the front of my leg. He applied some sort of anesthetic, it stung a bit, but the kind of sting that felt right, felt like mom putting Vicks Vapo-Rub on my chest when I had a cold. Comforting pain. Then he asked-through the old man- if I wanted to go to a local hospital, or if I wanted to wait until I got home, back to the states. I opted for back home.
He applied several gauze bandages and wrapped the leg up tight with gauze wrap and taped it to last for a few hours. The nurse and the doctor smiled at me and I said gracias, gracias, and they left the room. A few seconds later the old man returned to the room and handed me a piece of paper “for the drugs” he said, “for the needle”. What? For the needle? This is where I learned that (at least in this situation) in Mexico apparently they give you the RX if you need a shot, so you go to a Pharmacia and get the needle and the drugs and shoot yourself. Eek. Am I spoiled or what? Living in a country where we pay people to shoot others up.
The old man told me I could leave, and I slowly sat up and gathered my thoughts and he led me into the waiting room. Kathy stood up and we both looked around. There were two ladies behind a glass enclosed counter, and we weren’t sure exactly what we were supposed to do now. We had about $35 in cash on us, and we both knew that probably wasn’t enough to get us out of the building, much less to my car back in the States. The ladies behind the counter smiled and waved us away “donacion, donation”. We gave them $5 and walked out the door.
The taxi driver picked us up and told us it was $90 to the border. We now had $40 and were distraught, trying to figure out what to do, feeling guilty about only paying $5 for the ambulance and medical attention. After a few minutes he told us that we could take a bus. It should only cost us around $10 each to get to Tijuana- so we went for it, and he dropped us off a few minutes later, and didn’t charge us for the ride. There were people everywhere, and we finally figured out where to go to buy a ticket, and where to go to find our bus, and boarded.
My leg was aching and blood was starting to ooze through the bandage. We sat in the front row behind the driver in comfortable padded seats. Everyone around us was very concerned about my leg, patting my shoulder, patting my arm. The door slid closed and the bus pulled out of the station, the air conditioning kicked in, and in just a few minutes the movie started. Yes a movie. This was a nice bus, we saw Jumanji with Robin Williams in Spanish.
I dozed off, and we finally arrived in Tijuana. The station was only a few blocks from the border and by this time we were both starving, and we only had about $15 left, and still had to make it back to Encinitas , first to pick up my car, and then to the ER at Scripps. We stopped at a street taco stand and wolfed one down, not nearly enough to sate our hunger, but enough to get us close to home.
We passed over the bridge (me limping, still getting lots of sympathetic stares) and through customs and bought trolley tickets. The blue line was just heading north so within 5 minutes of arrival we were on our way. It was packed, but someone gave me a seat because of the bloody leg. We jumped off at America Plaza Station and walked across the street to the Santa Fe Depot, and the Coaster was sitting there, ready to depart within 10 minutes. So far so good.
My leg was beginning to hurt now, and I felt nauseous, but tried to hang in there, we were so close. The train took off, and we rode it for several stops, finally getting off at Solana Beach, figuring that the taxi ride would be cheaper from there. We called a taxi and went outside to wait on a bench. And wait, and wait, and wait. Two hours later we called again, where are they? Almost there, we were told.
The taxi showed up and he was an angry guy. All I remember is he was complaining about something and neither of us could get a word in edgewise. I think his name was Ed.
We finally made it to the car, drove directly to Scripps and Kathy came inside with me. Lots going on this afternoon, 20 or 30 people waiting to see a doctor, and in the triage pecking order I was not at the top of the pyramid. I told her to go home, she lived right up the street, and that I would call whenever it was all over. I asked her to go to my house and get a credit so that I could bail myself out. Several hours later I was seen, they again cleaned the wound and gave me a tetnus shot. I called Kathy while they were wrapping my leg up again, and told her I would be ready shortly.
She picked me up and dropped me off at home, and I have little recollection of the drop off except that we forgot that if she was driving my car, she had no way to get home. So we called a cab, and guess who showed up, Ed again. Still angry, and Kathy was as exhausted as I was, it had been a long day. All she wanted to do was get home and go to bed.
I’ve told this story many times over the years, and every time I do the guilt about our $5 donation to the Red Cross clinic in Ensenada surfaces again. I think I’ll send them some money next payday, maybe the next few paydays. Surprise donations, they were wonderful to me..
The second thing I always mention is how kind the people of Ensenada were to me, from the moment I fell in the hole, though getting off the bus in Tijuana, and how smooth everything went UNTIL the cab delay in Solana Beach.
Mexico, even Baja, is like anyplace on earth. People are people, some are good, some are bad. The border isn’t the entry to a scary place, it’s the entry to another world. Respecting differences in people and culture and observing, not judging, is the thing I love about travel. I have been around the world and inevitably someone goes out of their way for me, without exception. But the Red Cross in Ensenada, and the ambulance crew, and the street vendors, and my friends, made this story one of kindness, not one of horror.
PS This trip actually began in the parking lot of the Cardiff campus of Mira Costa college and then through Campo to Ensenada. I did several trips with this same operator so oops was a little confused.
More like this:
- You can’t choose your neighbors — June 30, 2012
- The Kindness of Strangers- the beginning — Aug. 6, 2011
- An Absolutely True Story of Being Deported at Age 14 — July 23, 2011
- The hypochondriac — June 25, 2009
- My Life of Crime — Oct. 9, 1986