Mugged on the Metro

Mugged on the Metro

From: "daniel chun"
Date sent: Thu, 22 Apr 1999

I call this one "Mugged on the Metro."

Everybody who knew anything about Mexico City warned me. Some warned me not to go at all; Twenty-plus million people, traffic congestion, pollution, crime. The others said "avoid the taxis and busses, the metro (Mexico City's legendary subway system) is the way to go."

And what a way to go it is. For two and a half pesos, roughly twenty five cents American, one can travel from one end of the seemingly endless metropolis to the other. The stations are clean and the trains run every few minutes. If one avoids the rush hours, the crowds aren't bad either.

Teri and I traversed the city on the trains. From our hotel (an incredible bargain if you must know) near the Zocalo to Chapultepec Park, to the beautiful colonias of San Angel and Coyoacan. We visited the former homes of Leon Trotsky and Freida Kahlo, and the floating gardens of Xochililco. For the first three days of our trip we streaked all over the place.

On the fourth morning we went to a money exchange to buy some pesos. The exchange rate was great, about eight plus. I had some trouble with the exchange at first because I had some new fifty dollar bills, with the large images of dead patriots. After a while we got it squared away, got our pesos and headed for the metro.

Ever wary of pickpockets, I scanned the platform all around me. It was sparsely peopled and none of them were anywhere near to me. As the train pulled into the station, I looked around: nothing had changed. When the train stopped and the doors opened, a crush of people seemed to materialize out of the air and I was swept into the car in the throng. Teri was caught up as well but she fought her way to the middle of the car. I was caught in the mass of humanity near the door. With nothing to hold onto I pressed both of my hands against the ceiling for support (I know, I know, not brilliant).

When the train stopped at the next station most of the mass departed, replaced by more people. I went over to where Teri was by then seated and checked my pockets. I had been picked clean. I thought I'd outsmart them by putting my money in a front and hip pocket. Apparently they'd encountered wily gringos such as I in the past. Teri said one of the group had put a hand inside her jacket. She doesn't know if he was after money or a cheap feel, but what he got was Teri's elbow in the ribs.

We were determined not to let the episode ruin our trip but it really put us on edge for the rest of the time we were there. I used my credit card as often as possible. It's accepted at all but the smallest establishments. We got a better exchange rate that way as well.

I may be preaching to the choir here but i want to share with you what I've done on subsequent trips, not just to Mexico. I now use an inside the waistband money belt to carry money, plane tickets and passport. Because the ticket and passport can cause some discomfort when bending forward, I put it around back. I take out what money I thing I'll need in the morning and usually don't have to dig into it for the rest of the day. I often forget I'm wearing it.

Teri and I travel to Mexico two or three times a year. We love the land and the people. We felt safer in Mexico City than I have in New York City, although that was probably due in large part to an incredible amount of naiveté.

Buen viaje! Hasta luego!

Daniel Chun
Denver, CO

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