A young man taps on the window. “You need a push?” he shouts through the window.
We’re wary but resigned at this point. “How much?”
“Whatever you want to pay. Whatever you think is fair. I trust you do the right thing”
Relieved, grateful, we agree. But what IS the right thing? Was $150.00 reasonable? Too much?
“But I have to pay my friend. He wants $60.”
We stare at him, still not knowing if we are being scammed and resigned to it if we are.
“Pesos! 60 pesos!”
The Cadillac, not one of the big long ones, still a very heavy car is now without power steering or brakes. It’s heavy to push and hard to stop. Randy and I switch places so he can steer. One time we bump the car in front of us. The angry driver gets out to confront us but our new found savior explains things to him in Spanish. I don’t know what he said but the driver is mollified and gets back in his car.
Getting up speed, moving a few feet, standing on the brakes, we inch toward the border. At a stop, a tap on the window.
“Hey, boss. Not for me but for my friend, I need some money now. We hear from others that you don’t pay. Me, I am willing to trust but my friend, he got to go….”
I fear we will be stranded but we hand him a twenty through the slightly open door. “Here’s for your friend. I promise there is more for you. Just, please, get us to the border.”
“OK, boss. I’ll be right back.”
He runs to a store along the isle of cars and changes the money. I see him pay his friend who then leaves.
But our friend, whose name we will never know, stays. When we are stopped he polishes the car with his rag then as the car ahead moves he pushes this huge car up a few feet.
A tap on the window.
“Hey, boss. If the agents see me they will arrest me.” Our concern and fear must show in our eyes because he shrugs and says, “only for 36 hours.”
Then, “So if I run away, I will be back, ok?”
Another few feet toward the border. Another tap on the window.
“We got a plan, boss.”
Who is this we?
The plan. “Boss, we gonna push you as hard as we can. NO brakes, boss. And you gonna go over there.”
All we can see over there is a wall and a sidewalk. Further over are more lines of cars. He is going to push us into the Redi Pass lane, 3 lanes of traffic, a sidewalk and a wall away. That’s the plan – to bump up on the sidewalk, miss the wall, bump back down and then get pushed into the Redi Pass lane.
“But I don’t HAVE a Redi Pass,” I think briefly. Who cares? Randy’s never going to make it over the sidewalk without hitting the wall anyway.
Off we go. Picking up speed. Who IS pushing us? It can’t just be our guide but I am focused on the sidewalk and wall looming up ahead.
Bump, our front tires make the jump to the sidewalk. Randy avoids the wall by inches, bump we’re back down on the other side. Our guide stops a car and someone pushes us into line.
Tap on the window. “Boss, I got to go. There’s the ICE agent. Can you pay me now? And
I got to pay them.” We open the door and hand him money. He waves it at his cohorts, fires off something in rapid Spanish which apparently assures they will continue to push us to the border. He runs to the store to get change.
It is at this point that we can look behind us to see who has been helping him. There sitting on our car waiting for the next push are 3 giggling school girls. I don’t know whether to be humiliated or just grateful. But they do it. These 3 12 year old girls push us to the border. There 2 muscular CBP agents insist on checking our passports first and then because they have no choice agree to push us out of the way. But not before they ask me to get out of the car. “The extra weight,” a buff young officer grumbles.
“Hey, hey. Watch it.”
“Every little bit makes a difference, m’am.”
I wanted to call his attention to who had pushed us this far but thought better of it. Those CBP agents are very serious about their jobs.
Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience. Hopefully these pointers will help you if you ever find yourself in this position.
1) Take small bills to the border. Fives, tens and twenties so you never have to hand someone a hundred and pray he really will come back and help. Or worse yet, no money at all, where you have to ask if they will take a credit card (or your first born) instead.
2) Be sure and pee in Rosarito just before you leave for the border.
3) A fully charged phone will help but only for texting. I have found for some reason American phones don’t work for either side of the border at the border.
4) Snacks and a book are helpful and could be calming.
5) Pray this particular bit of travel adventure never happens to you, but remember, it makes a great story after the fact!