Street and Parking Lot Guys
Here's something that you just don't get in the States: a man to watch your street. Or a guy to help you drive in and out of your parking space. These are almost always old men, some of them missing an arm or walking with a limp. And they make a minimal living on tips from people who frequent their block or lot.
That's the street guy for Calle 49 between Calle 62 and Calle 64 in the picture, Jose. He's sitting proudly on his trici, a three-wheeled bicycle common here in the Yucatan. Not every block warrants a street guy, and we have no idea how one gets the job. But if a block has a lot of parking activity, pretty soon, a street guy shows up. Every time someone parks, he "helps". Sometimes that help is actually helpful (if you can't see behind you or you need him to hold up traffic while you maneuver into a tight spot) but often it's not really needed. Still, he expects you to pay him a few pesos when you're done, especially if you are a gringo. Those of us who live on that street are asked to pay Jose monthly, which we do (don't know if everyone does). But we have learned to appreciate our street guy. He lets us know if Fedex or anyone else has been by our house looking for us. He flags down the bottled water guy for us and gets our bottled water. He saves us a spot when we come back from WalMart with a car full of groceries. And for an extra 50 pesos (about $4.50 USD), he washes the car. After Hurricane Isidore, we gave him $200 pesos to get a new "lamina" (plastic laminate) roof for his house. He's become part of our Merida life.
Then there's the parking lot guys... a sort of variation on the street guys. They work in the parking lots. In some lots, they are just there to help you maneuver in and out of your spot, something we are perfectly capable of doing without them back in the States. Still, we cough up 2 or 3 pesos every time. The parking lot guys at WalMart or CostCo actually will take over pushing your cart when you reach the parking lot, will unload it into the car, and take the cart away. And they will direct you out of your parking space as a bonus. It's worth a few pesos. For some reason, though, the parking lot guys are irritating because we didn't need them before we moved here. But the other day, as we were getting into the car already filled with groceries and getting ready to drive away, a parking lot guy approached us. We could feel that annoyance creep up... we'd already unloaded our cart and didn't need his "help". Then he held up a pair of reading glasses and asked if they belonged to us. Apparently they had been dropped loading the groceries...
So we learned another lesson in appreciating street men and parking lot guys. In another country, they might be homeless or on welfare. Here, they are being useful and participating in society.