Maneuvering sidewalks and banks in Puerto Vallarta

I was coming out of the Santander bank (a Spanish bank) just up from one of my favourite restaurants, El Barracuda, when I fell into the road and scraped my leg from knee to ankle. I was bleeding like a stuck pig and my heart sank that I was in a part of town that was not close to a hospital. This brings up two subjects, walking and banking, neither of which I am proficient at.

First let us talk about walking in this favourite city of mine. If you live anywhere but the Malecon  or a main road, you quickly learn to look 10 feet in front of you to see what is coming. I don’t mean that you are checking out the people coming towards you but rather the street itself. The cement and cobblestones are treacherous and you had better watch where you are walking.

Every time I am at the airport there are people hobbling about with bum ankles and wrenched knees, all with horror stories regarding the clear disregard municipal authorities have for the infrastructure underneath our feet. The plane looked like Lourdes going back to Vancouver.

Anyway there I was standing in the street outside the bank with blood all over my leg as people hurried past mumbling about “drunks in the way” etc. The irony of course is that the sidewalk there is very good but I had stepped onto the cobblestone road and turned my ankle, precipitating my fall. In this case it was not the city’s fault but mine because I was not watching where I was walking while counting my money.

But why cobblestones in the first place? Apparently cobblestone streets are easy to fix cheaply. When a road here deteriorates, that is to say when it is dreadful, a truck arrives and dumps a load of stones. Then a gang of labourers with pickaxes dig up the broken road, replacing the old with the new. It is still a rough ride over these new stones but it looks better.

The sidewalks in a great part of the city are more lethal than a Mexican hot dog. Suddenly there is an unmarked hole or a partially missing slab of cement. People who live here are not being rude and trying to avoid your gaze, they are simply mapping out the next few yards of their journey because of past painful experiences.

Anyway I hobbled down to the ocean and washed my bleeding leg in the salty waters of Bandaras Bay. Then I limped into a farmacia (drugstore)  and with hand gestures explained my circumstances, which were fairly obvious. “Please make it alto (stop)!” I bleated.

Two splendid-looking women immediately started to work on my limb and in a few minutes I found myself professionally washed and bandaged with a handful of salves and pills in a nice little packet to last me a week. With smiles and giggles they put me into a taxi bound for my condo.

I am lucky that fall did not break my leg, yet every day I watch young women in high heels walking on cobblestoned streets staring at their phones, and they seem fine. We are not young and must be careful even with no heels at all.

Banking is terrifying everywhere as far as I am concerned. Look at my experience with Jimmy, my banker from Canada, where the very word Mexico gave the local branch of the CIBC the collective shivers. Down here in Puerto Vallarta, banking is fairly sophisticated except when it isn’t.

For instance anyone with a bank card can walk into a bank and use that card to take money from the ATM, which obviously debits your account back in Canada or the States. I always rub the ATM involved lovingly because electronic things never seem to like me much, so I try to stay on their good side. One begins to find favourite ATMs because often they don’t like your card or something like that and the one or two that do favour you are to be remembered.

I once had an embarrassing moment when my immigration lawyer Javier took me to the Peninsula Plaza and watched from the taxi as three different bank ATMs refused my card, one of them the Canadian Scotia Bank. He then drove me to HSBC, where it worked perfectly. Why? It beats me.

However a few days later at the same bank I watched as a first-timer in PV approached the ATM. By first-timer I generally mean a freckle-faced young woman who has obviously just arrived at an all-inclusive hotel and thrown herself down beside the pool, parboiling beautiful skin that should never see direct sunlight. Now on the second day of her vacation she can  barely walk and has a face that appears to have watched a nuclear blast. To stay out of the sun, she is going to a bank and the markets.

In this case, after she put her bank card into the ATM, the machine spit her card out with a receipt for $200 but no actual money. The woman, already uncomfortable with sunburn, started, to yell that she had been robbed. The bank manager, after finally finding an employee who spoke English,, told the fiery red shouter that she must check with her bank at home for a refund as it has nothing to do with them. The woman went berserk, screaming she thinks the whole country is a clip joint. But still no money. I advised her to try another bank and rub the ATM. She became abusive.

We see these sort of scenes all the time here. It is part of the colour and life is never dull.

Remember to be careful of independent ATMs as their reputation is at the same level as time-shares. At least the banks are air-conditioned.

Copyright Christopher Dalton 2015

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1 Response
  1. Alan Caplan

    “The sidewalks in a great part of the city are more lethal than a Mexican hot dog.” Made my morning. And it applies to Bucerias and all the other towns in the Bay. We used to have a guy who navigated for us by yelling “bumpo in the road-o ahead!”.

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