Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Story Of Tijuana; Or How I Became An Illegal Immigrant

Once upon a time, far away in a (crazy) land (with no sweet tea) called California, my brother was graduating from Marine Corps boot camp.

My parents were super duper proud of him, so they decided to go see him graduate.  They were so proud, they didn't even roll their eyes when I "promised" to pay them back if they bought me a plane ticket (and paid for my food, and lodging, and sight seeing) so I could go.

He's a handsome little bugger.

The graduation ceremony takes place over several days, so we decided to do touristy things like go to the zoo and the park and drive by the nuclear plant nicknamed Dolly Parton.

I see no resemblance, honestly...

But eventually, we heard the Call of Adventure, specifically Mexico.  Tijuana was only 20 minutes away from our hotel, and my mother and sister had never been outside of the States.  So, of course we had to go!  We looked up the regulations for crossing the border.  Unfortunately, the website hadn't been updated since 9/11.

Seems legit to me!  Let's go!

So, we got in our rent-a-car and drove across town to the U.S./Mexico border.  We parked in a sketchy 5.00 all-day parking lot and gazed over the fence separating us from Adventure.

That's it, seriously.  That's the way into Mexico.  Just a turny fence.
We walked through the turny fence and past the fat guard asleep in what seemed to be a children's school desk, and we thought "wow, the website was totally right!  You do just mosey on in!"

Seen here:  Mexican border guard hard at work.

Euphoric with our success, our first order of business was to find the sights.  That's when Roberto the Crazy Taxi Driver appeared.  When you first get into Tijuana, there is a jostling mob of taxi drivers waiting to take you to Revolution Road, where all the touristy shops are.  Roberto won out because he spoke English.  He told us to wait there, he'd be right back with his taxi (I'm gonna assume he was either hot wiring one, or dumping a dead body, because this is Tijuana after all).

Trust me when I say his crazy wing-like arm and magnificent chest hair were the least of our worries.

We got in his seat-belt-less taxi and tried to avoid the wires sticking out of the seats and ceiling while we embarked on the most death defying 15 minute ride of my life.  My dad started having flash backs of Vietnam...and he wasn't even in Vietnam.

Typical family portrait

We miraculously made it in one piece, despite Roberto running several red lights.  We were immediately accosted by street urchins selling wares with prices that magically INCREASED when you tried to buy them.  We also had plenty of opportunities to buy Vicodin and Oxycontin at the hundreds of farmacias packed onto one little street.  Since I had taken at least one semester* of Spanish, I appointed myself the family's ambassador. I spouted off little gems to the street vendors such as "mi gato tiene su sujetapapeles" and "no tengo un baño" as they looked on in amazement.  I felt very proud of myself.  We bought several souvenirs and since it was getting dark and the sounds of gunshots were getting more frequent, we decided it was time to skedaddle.

Roberto took us back to the border...and that's where we ran into trouble.  You see, the website lied.  Getting out of Mexico is not nearly as easy as getting in.  There is an actual customs building you have to walk though with guards and guns.

Wait a minute...that is not a turny fence!

Once inside, we started to get the inkling of a suspicion that we might have some problems getting back into the U.S.  Our first clue was the fact that everyone was breaking out their sister didn't have so much as a driver's license on her...You can see where this is going...


After spending a month in Mexican jail and not getting anywhere with an immigration lawyer, we decided to make a break for it...

JUST KIDDING. (But I really had you going there for a second, right?  Right??)

The guard we had to talk to was actually really nice and let us go through.  I like to think it was my heartfelt plea that changed his mind. ("But, we're from Arkansas!  I can show you  my accent!  Please don't let me die here, there is no sweet tea and the coke tastes funny!")  It might have also been that we are hopelessly gringos.

The moral of the story:  Don't buy leather from Tijuana.
Pro tip: improperly tanned leather smells like skunk.  It's not as noticable in Tijuana, where everything smells like skunk, but it will smell up your rented car, and your hotel room until you put it out on the balcony to "air out" will continue to smell, smelling up the airplane, and your house and eventually your garage.  The smell will linger through copious amounts of Febreeze and several exorcisms.  You will eventually end up hiding it amongst your donation to Goodwill as people refused to buy it at your garage sell, even though you offered to pay them for taking it.


  1. YOU are funny!!! Loved the story!

  2. you are too funny! i love your blog and this is a hoot! i being from california at one point have had many tijuana adventures...most i would like to forget.