September 16th, 1996

El Molinito, Naucalpan de Juarez, Edo. de Mexico

So, for my first Mexican Independence Day in Mexico*, back when I was a missionary, we spent the morning at a military parade downtown and that evening at a party some members of our ward hosted (relax, if you're keeping score, it was a preparation day). My companion and I and the two other missionaries we shared our apartment with got a ride home from the party from a married couple that cooked the other two missionaries' meals. Their car was like a suburban, but without rear windows or seats in the back, so the four of us just bounced around on the floor or the wheel well dents, looking over the backs of the front seats out the windshield. The party had been outside the busy part of El Molinito, the mini-city nestled against Mexico City where we worked, and there was just a little two lane road leading back into town.

The whole way back into town our driver was playing this traffic game against another family that had been at the party where he'd cut off their station wagon and not let them pass us and then, if they passed us, they'd keep us from passing them and block us on the shoulder and a passenger, it definitely felt a little crazy, but our driver and his wife were cheering and laughing and the other car would wave and honk happily at us when they passed us or we passed them. But at some point another car got between us, a little VW Rabbit or something like that, but our driver kept the game going with this stranger and would block the little car from passing us on the left or the right and would stop short at stop lights or race through them or whatever, just tormenting this unwitting third party.

The game continued as we reached the crowded streets of Molinito proper, and I mean our driver was just merciless. From his elephant of a car he would not give this little Rabbit an inch, all the time laughing as his wife clapped. As entertaining as it was to be in the winning vehicle, I couldn't help but wonder where the cops were in this town...and then I remembered, oh yeah, our driver WAS a cop.

Passing through the middle of El Molinito, we came to a hill where the road widened from two opposing lanes of traffic to four lanes of one way traffic (our apartment was just past a pedestrian bridge at the top of this hill) and here our truck didn't stand a chance against the Rabbit. It moved over two lanes from us (meaning we were in a lane, then there was an empty lane, and then the lane that the Rabbit was in) and suddenly our driver got shouty. He pushed his wife from her seat back into the wayback with us and I watched that zippy little Rabbit catch up to us and then, my eyes not believing what they saw, but taking it in as very real and very much happening, he crossed his right hand out the window across his left hand on the wheel, revealing the glint of a firearm, and there were two flashes and two "pop pops"--sounding nothing like the bang bangs of guns on TV and that's how I knew this was for real--and then zipped off at an acceleration our truck couldn't match.

At first our driver slammed down on the gas with intentions of pursuing the Rabbit, but by the time we were at the top of the hill he seemed to have changed his mind (I need to add here: At this point I've been living in Mexico for roughly a month and my Spanish is nearly non-functional. Basically, I can read signs and put together a few sentences but I can hardly understand anything anyone ever says, and I'm in a car full of native, non-English speaking Mexicans, so the only thing I definitely understand are actions and words are just a guess) about hunting down someone that we know has a gun. He pulls over somewhere not near our apartment, in case the Rabbit locates us, looking for revenge. We get out of the car to have a look and, yes, there are two bullet holes in the side of the car, one of them right in the passenger door beside the rear-view mirror.

At this time didn't know how to speak Spanish or how to take a photo, so yeah, that's my finger

At this time didn't know how to speak Spanish or how to take a photo, so yeah, that's my finger

The whole experience left me thrilled. I just thought it was awesome. Other near-death (or near-danger) experiences I'd later have in Mexico left me thinking "No, that was not cool" but this one I was crazy about. In fact, when I got home that night I got out my yet-to-be-mailed letter home for that week and wrote across the sealed envelope, in red ink, of all things, "MOM-Just got shot at, will tell you more next week!" without any thought to the anxiety that incomplete bit of news might cause at the home office during the week before the follow up would arrive.

*How did I spend my second Mexican Independence Day in Mexico? At a church party where they had a cock fight in the gym. I said to the person I was standing by (at this point I could speak Spanish) "Can you believe they're having a cock fight? In the CHURCH?" and they responded: "I know! Isn't it great?"