married for a while now but it was in Mexico that
I suddenly realized how differently women travel
than men. It was the time my husband and two children
(aged five and eight) travelled to Puerto Angel
on the Pacific Coast of the State of Oaxaca.
The man climbed
into the back seat of the taxi beside me, slamming
the door clumsily as the driver pulled back onto
the highway. Hunched forward, balancing his bag
on his lap, his teeth gleamed in the dark. "Gracias
Senora. Buenas noches," He nodded at my clutched
I waited for
him to demand all my valuables. My husband John,
in the front seat, had all our traveller's cheques
tucked away in his money belt. My classroom Spanish
would not stand up to a robbery. We would be pitched
off the side of the road, peso-less.
The taxi accelerated,
fish-tailing around the next corner, leaving the
night-time lights of Puerto Angel behind us. We've
been set-up, I thought, the driver has an accomplice....
The taxi had
come to pick us up at nine o'clock. "That'll get
us to Pochutla in time for the midnight bus to Oaxaca,"
we had said.
After the driver
finished urinating into the darkness we negotiated
a price. John, at six-foot-four, squeezed himself
into the front passenger seat, his knees up around
his ears. I took the back seat with one child on
my lap and one snuggled tight against me, my arm
around her. I locked the door on my side. There
were no seat-belts. The taxi sprayed rocks as it
turned and left the parking lot of the hotel.
of town, the driver said, "Look, a campesino." He
skidded to a halt. "He is a poor man needing a ride."
The stranger got into the taxi with us.
on our way. The taxi slowed around corners, swerving
out to pass slower vehicles, headlights slashing
the darkness. A dozen times in the half-hour drive
to Pochutla I was certain we would be killed. Then
it wouldn't matter much if we'd also been robbed.
I clung to my children and prayed to Canadian gods.
The man beside
me held his tattered nylon sports bag tightly against
his chest. He
said, "Gracias, senora," every time I gave him a
sidelong glance. He patted the empty space between
us. I tried not to list as the taxi careened around
corners. My son fell asleep in my arms, sprawling
hotly against me. My daughter whimpered, "You're
squishing me." My back ached.
As we neared
Pochutla the man sharing the back seat with us called
out to the driver, "Aqui, aqui," and leapt out of
the taxi, vanishing into the hot and humid night.
At the bus
depot, the disgruntled taxi driver loudly demanded
At this time of night, he'd never get a fare back
to Puerto Angel. We grudgingly acquiesced.
Under the bright
fluorescent lights of the bus depot I collapsed,
exhausted, into a blue plastic chair. "We're all
still alive," I groaned. "Still alive?" my dear,
sweet husband asked, "Was something the matter?"