Transito and Transportes: the Mexican license plate exchange

I just spent the better part of the day at the Delegacion de Transito y Transportes de Nayarit. The first time I went there was a few days ago, on Friday.  I should know better by now that in order to achieve a desired outcome at a government office you must present yourself in person at least twice and perhaps thrice. This particular government office is located about 15 minutes inland from Mezcales, in between Bucerias and Puerto Vallarta.  Luckily my neighbour told me about a secret short cut that you can pick up in Bucerias that will transport you on a beautiful country road that is smoothly paved.  The drive is most pleasant; however, the government office is not.

After some confusion and waiting around for approximately 40 minutes, it was my turn to speak with the person who has been given the title of Delegado. As I walked into this small room I was reminded of a trip in my younger days to the principal’s office, characterized by a sense of fear and anxiety.  After my visit with the Delegado, complimented by a 700 pesos “payment” to expedite certain documents supposedly to Tepic, I was told to return Monday (today) to pick up my new license plates.  “Paying extra” – which was the only option made available to me – somehow made me think that I might be getting a better deal; perhaps there would be less waiting and fewer line-ups.  But no sirree.  Whatever payment I had previously made certainly did not save me from what I ended up enduring today.

Stationed in line outside just before 9am, I was entertained by how people who were supposed to show up for work at 9am simply did not.  The earliest person arrived around 9:05 and the last one came scurrying in at 9:45am.  I like this concept of time in Mexico coupled with an element of uncertainty.  Will people come to work late?  Will they come at all?  After my wait outside of about 10 minutes I progressed to waiting in another line inside, in an attempt to get back into the office of the Delegado – the same Delegado who gladly received my my extra payment, indirectly leading me to believe that I would be the recipient of some sort of “special treatment”.  So far there was no evidence, whatsoever, of any kind of special treatment.

After waiting in line for about 15min outside the Delegado’s office, my feathers started to ruffle. This forced me to cut in line which was achieved by poking my head into the doorway like some little bird.  It seemed pretty fair to me to behave in this manner since I had already waited in the exact same line up on Friday.  In my mind I had already paid my dues, literally, on my previous visit.   I was somewhat waved into the office and my documents magically appeared out of the top-left desk drawer.  The photocopies I had already made early this morning were added to the originals and then the whole pile was reorganized into a specific order (according to what I will never know) before being handed back to me.  I was instructed to go and pay, but at the cashier booth this time.  So far, so good.  I had been successful in cutting down the wait in one line up already.

I waited in a long serpentine line to pay.  It strikes me as somewhat ludicrous that any person should ever have to wait in line just  to fork over their money to someone else.  When I reached the window and it was, in theory, my turn to pay; I was informed that the system was down and that I would have to wait 20 minutos.  Anybody who has spent time in Mexico knows what 20 Mexican minutes really are, so I high-tailed it out of there to run some other errands while I waited for the system to return.

Successfully having ran one errand, I managed to get back into the transit office for noon; it would close at 1pm.  For the second time today, I cut in line.  By that point, this particular line had some 12 people in it.  The liner uppers did not look at all thrilled with me and my antics but I had already waited in this line earlier in the day right as the system was going down.  When I stepped up to the window, eager to pay, I was asked for the license plates which I had somehow forgotten in the car this second time around, due to rushing back to the office for noon.  I was forced to return to the car, back down the outdoor hallway, down the stairs and across the parking lot.  Arrrr.  When I returned to the office, plates in hand, I squeezed my way back into the front of the pay line.  I relinquished my old plates from Jalisco and was shooed over to the next window.  There was something strange about this second window though; it had almost no one in line.

Amazing but true, I stood in front of a lady who did not so much as even acknowledge my presence for some 10 minutes or more.  I duly waited and was finally rewarded by her extracting my money, typing in all of my information into her computer, and then her handing me back a bunch of documents to take next door to photocopy: “One copy of this one, and one of this one too, and then three of the rest of the entire stack.”  Luckily there was no line up  the photocopy shop, just one woman who had over taken the entire counter top with her own copies.  Then for some reason I didn’t have to pay; I don’t know if it was because they don’t accept money or if the girl had forgotten to charge me.  I didn’t ask any questions and headed back to the main office.

For the third time today I cut into a line.  Straight back into the front of the short lineup I went, with the lady who has a hard time noticing people.  She took my copies, the phone glued to her ear, and she gave me a sign – that would for us would indicate a measurement of about an inch but this same sign that in Mexico translates to permiteme un momentito (give me a sec).  Knowing that it would not take a second to do whatever it was she needed to do with my documents, I passed from the front of the line right straight to the back of it with the idea in mind that by the time I got back up to the front of the line they would have done whatever they needed to do with all those photocopies.

The waiting started to get painful at that point.  15 minutes passed.  As luck would have it, the shorter line is often the one that moves slower.  There was this elderly lady behind me, looking rather weak and frail, so I just had to let her go in front of me.  When it was my turn, it was like deja vu all over again.  The office lady was still typing stuff into the computer, not acknowledging my presence, but by this time I knew what to expect and hence didn’t take it to heart. As I was in the midst of toughening up, I glimpsed what appeared to be my documents.

My pile had remained untouched.  While the other office ladies at the back desk proceeded to retrieve my stack of papers and pull my pile apart, separating the various copies and entering who knows what details into the computer, I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited some more.  Finally I was called over to the door over on the far left (as opposed to the window) by one of the desk ladies and she handed me my stack of documents, now separated into two stacks with one for originals and one for copies.  The back desk lady instructed me to go over to Maribel, the girl in the red uniform shirt.  At least Maribel sometimes smiled, things were looking up.

But alas there was another line.  I bit my tongue and tried to smile although I felt like I might pass out from the hunger and the thirst that was attacking my body.  More waiting, although not so much this time, and then finally I was asked to step up and  sign something.  Yippie!  This was a good sign.  Maribel disappeared into the Delegado’s office for a few moments and then reappeared with some nice, new, baby blue license plates from Nayarit.  Hooray!  I don’t have to go back until next year between January and April to pay the renewal on the registration.  Maybe next year things will be different, but I sincerely doubt it.

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