There's something I find very funny about Ciudad Juarez. All the local buses have painted on their rear doors: Quejas? And a phone number. It's something like, "How's my driving?" But I prefer the Mexican version because it acknowledges the obvious motive for someone to jot down the number in traffic, and doesn't try to fool the reader/fellow driver into believing that some people might be calling to say, "That driver was being so cautious; he didn't cut me off once!" It just says, if ya' don't like what you see - here you go - call the number; we're ready.
But I have a different take on it. I think this number should be used to complain about, oh, just about anything one feels like. They should staff the phone line with sympathetic operators who will just listen, agree, and say meaningless things like, "I know, I know! But what can ya' do about it?" or, "Mmm hmm, no kidding, I agree!"
If you'll allow me, I'd like to get on that line for a bit, because I think I could come up with a few local quejas myself. So, Mr. 616-45-19, here's what I'd say:
- Ay this desert climate! Days after arriving into the high Chihuahuan desert my fingertips began to wrinkle and haven't unfolded since. Have you ever gotten Super-Glue on your fingertips by accident and for a while you can't feel anything right? Yeah, that's what it's like all the time for me. And yes, I use lotion. I use Norwegian Sailor hand cream. I use Working Hands stuff that only diesel mechanics need. I slather my hands in bag balm every night before turning off the light. (Naw, cat hair doesn't stick to bag balm...). NOTHING HELPS. My hands re-plump slightly overnight, but as soon as they feel this dang desert dryness and hard water in the morning, it's Prune City all over again.
- Which brings me to the hard water. Water should not leave stains on surfaces, it's water after all, right? It's supposed to CLEAN things, not mark them. White high-tide lines mark all our sinks, shower doors, stainless steel stove top and tub tiles. And have you seen my flat, dull, dried-out hair? My god! And it makes some salty tea! Geez.
- Can I talk about the roads now? I mean the actual surface of the roads, not the drivers or city layout. The combination of constant sun and high temps, lack of rain, dust, motor oil and tire rubber has burnished the Juarez streets to a high sheen akin to glazing a ceramic tile. Because of this shiny smooth surface, the car tires squeal at every move. Going from 20 to 6 mph to carefully turn into your driveway? SQUEEEAAALLLL! Making a U-turn at 12 mph? That'll sound like a bank robber getaway car, for sure. And it's not only the sound, it's also the glare that comes up off the streets, obliterating any lane lines. For some reason, the El Paso streets don't squeak and shine like this. There must be some secret ingredient in the paving materials here that cause even the softest of new tennis shoes to squeak-squeak-squeak as one walks down the road.
- Spiders and roaches and scorpions - Oh My! So far, we haven't seen a scorpion in the house or yard yet (sound of hearty knocking on wooden dinner table in background), but pretty much all of our coworkers have. One, in fact, took a picture of the nastiest, scariest looking thing. This isn't his actual picture, but it looked just like this. Yeah, it was dark black and looked like it could surely could drop a cow with a single sting. Actually, my coworker later learned that this was the harmless type that ate other bad bugs in the yard, but my goodness, would you have waited around to find out if it were friend or foe? Not me.
- Did I mention we also have black widow spiders and big ole' roaches here? I've only seen the latter so far, a half-dozen of the buggers have wandered into our kitchen from outside, but we've been warned about the former. I refer to our garden shed as the Benevolent Home for Spiders and Scorpions and don't open the shed without first banging on the door and loudly announcing my presence. It's only a matter of time...
- The wind! Dust storms wind winds of 50 mph regularly blow through the region during the springtime. After the events in Oklahoma and Texas one could hardly call this a true queja, right? But I'm going to anyway. The fine dust and sand is picked up in a hot wind and blasted against man, beast, home and car radiator. What's the best way to remove paint from a house? A sandblaster, of course! So that's what is happening to our door frames and window trims on a continual basis. But what about applying that sandblasting effect to softer things, like skin and eyes? Mmm hmm, you got it. The first two months here found me in the ophthalmologist's office more than once for various eye problems due to this dusty, furnace-like wind.
Okay, it's time to get off the Quejas bus and back to reality. Thank you for listening; I feel much better.