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>Flies! & Dress Code

February 21, 2010


As I noted in last week’s post, it didn’t take us long both to settle into our new way of life and  to begin to assimilate into the culture, a process that would be accelerated in a few short months. Nonetheless, there were still many things that reminded us that we were no longer in the U.S. Here are a couple.


SNAPSHOT: The screen door at the back entrance of our house is covered with flies, top to bottom, blocking the sunlight that had been pouring through a short time before.
“Where are all these flies coming from?” Mom’s voice betrayed both alarm and disgust, for there were flies gathering on our screen door, with more arriving by the minute.
Mom hated flies and flies were a problem in Mexico, yet another difference, but one that none of us enjoyed. They were particularly troublesome during the rainy season, from June to October. This was July.
It usually rained twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We could predict what time the rains would start, morning or afternoon, thanks to a bug we never saw but only heard. We called it the rain bug. About half an hour before the rain, it began to produce a very distinctive sound, an electric, snapping kind of hum, probably in response to a change in air pressure. Shortly after, the flies, also sensing the coming rain, began looking for shelter, inside our house being their first choice. The first time this happened was unforgettable.
The three of us sat in the kitchen, Mom with a cup of coffee, Val and I finishing up our bowls of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (“We eat these at home, Mom!” Valerie had exclaimed when Mom came back from a trip to the store.)
“Hear the rain bug, kids?” Mom asked. “Should rain soon.”
We usually had the back door open to cool off the house. It’s fortunate we had a screen door. Val was the first to notice. “Look at the flies on the screen, Mom.” We both turned to look. There were at least a couple of dozen of them and as we sat watching, more landed on the screen. In about ten minutes there were hundreds of them, so many that they blocked much of the light. But it wasn’t a writhing, moving mass of flies. They simply sat there, perfectly still and silent, a grotesque and nauseating cape hanging from the screen door.
“My God, that’s disgusting!” Mom exclaimed and quickly left the room.
“Ugh!” echoed Valerie as she followed Mom.
Not me; the flies fascinated me. As soon as Mom and Valerie were out of the room I got up, walked over and watched the silent blackness on the screen door for several seconds. Then I whacked the screen door, hard.
Deserts have their sand storms and the poles their snow storms. Whacking the screen door created my own fly storm, a surging, swarming maelstrom of angry flies scattering instantly in all directions. And the noise! That many flies don’t produce a gentle buzzing or droning sound. I was physically assailed by the rough, rasping, reverberating din, forced to take steps backward, even as I marveled at the spectacle.
“What in hell is that noise, David?” Even seated in the sala Mom had heard the flies.
“Nothing, Mom.” Dissimulation seemed the best course.
“That was not nothing, David! What was it?”
“It was the flies leaving, Mom, but they’re coming back.” And they were. One teenage whacker wasn’t going to deter them even a little bit.
“What did you do, scatter them?” And Mom came into the kitchen to see for herself. “It’s disgusting enough having our door covered with flies, David, much less you playing with them.” And she closed the back door, preferring the heat and the humidity to the flies. Even so, and never tiring of it, I found occasions to repeat the spectacle.
Dress Code

SNAPSHOT: The Mexican cop looks a lot like a grim Barney Fife. He has firmly taken the arms of two American women and is resolutely escorting them across a small park near downtown Guadalajara. The women are flustered. A Mexican family picnicking in the park stops eating and silently watches them go by.

It’s a Saturday morning and Mom has taken us to the Benjamin Franklin Lending Library, located by a little park near Los Arcos. We parked the car and went in, coming out some time later with the books we’d checked out. We locked them in the car and walked across the street to a little store called Todo Tipico (loosely translated as Everything Mexican) that Mom had been wanting to go into. A shop that catered mainly to tourists, it sold artifacts, souvenirs, post cards, gifts and the like. As we approached the entrance we stepped aside for two American women coming out of the shop. Both about Mom’s age and wearing Capri pants, they chatted and laughed as they walked towards their car, oblivious to the policeman who came up behind them. He tapped one of them politely on the shoulder. She and her companion stopped and turned around. They looked surprised but not worried. Mom, Val and I, curious to know what the policeman could want, paused at the shop entrance, watching.
The policeman didn’t speak English but it didn’t stop him from expressing his displeasure with the women. He frowned and wagged his finger emphatically. “You come!” he barked and marched off with the two women in his grasp.
“My God!” Mom exclaimed, “Is he going to arrest them? What did they do? Where is he taking them?” By now they’d disappeared around a corner. Unable to contain her curiosity Mom followed them and we followed her, no less eager than she to know what was going to happen.
When we turned the corner we saw the policeman marching the women across the park and into a dress shop. Again he gestured emphatically and barked something at them, his scowl showing his displeasure. The women disappeared inside and he leaned against the door frame, arms crossed over his chest. He was not leaving until they came out.
Mom didn’t want to stand there gawking so she decided this was a good time to do some window shopping. We took a leisurely stroll, keeping one eye on the dress shop while looking at the baked goods in the panaderia, the shoes in the zapateria, the window display in the farmacia and whatever other little shops there happened to be.
After about fifteen minutes, during which time we’d checked out all the stores twice, the women emerged, grim-faced, tight-lipped . . . and wearing dresses. The policeman, now happy, smiled, bowed slightly and walked off, his moral responsibility to the community discharged.
From then on, Mom always wore a dress downtown.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 5:54 pm

    >Finally, a story I've heard. I think both you and your mom told me about the "dress code" you encountered… Never heard the fly one before though. Nice description, especially the sounds.CappyPS why the change in fonts?

  2. February 25, 2010 7:38 pm

    >Good question – don't know why the font size changed. I'll have to be more alert next time. Thanx.

  3. February 25, 2010 7:40 pm

    >Got it changed for subsequent readers. Can't figure out the deal for line spacing, tho – don't know if there's a way to change that other than going back to the original draft.

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