July 9, 2015
Mark didn’t like late night arrivals at any airport especially in Mexico City where some people get hyper when they see a gringo. He should’ve been ready when a young man rushed up and in Spanish said, “Here, Señor, come with me.”
“To a place with no lines and low taxi fares.”
“Taxis are the other way.”
Mark was exhausted, and the man had his bag, so he followed. In a minute they were alone and climbing stairs to an obscure side exit onto a dark street where some men stood while others waited in unmarked cars.
“The best fares.”
He whispered to a man in a car and then told Mark, “Five hundred pesos.”
“That’s forty dollars. Look, I’ve been to Mexico City many times. I know what’s fair to go downtown – two hundred fifty pesos, maximum.”
“Give me my suitcase.”
The other men were watching. He pulled the suitcase away but Mark grabbed it and walked fast, almost ran, back to the side entrance to the airport. Do things right, he warned himself, making a long walk to the official taxi window.
“Where are you staying, señor?”
Mark told him, and bought a nonnegotiable and fair ticket he took the other direction, toward a line of labelled taxis in a well-lit area he knew.
“Hola,” Mark said.
The taxi driver, a husky fellow, grunted. Once they got on a main street – fairly wide but not a freeway – he accelerated and took it up to a hundred, a hundred twenty, a hundred fifty kilometers per hour – ninety mph in what must’ve been about a forty-five zone. Mark was too tired and scared to simply ask, “Can you please slow down?” Instead, he gripped the right side of his seat with that hand and prayed the driver’s focus on the road and strong two-hand grip on the steering wheel would keep them alive.
His next trip to Mexico City Mark arrived late and exhausted and went through the appropriate procedures but there weren’t any other passengers when he entered the side door of a van first in line. Usually in Mexico he rode up front. The man got in and started driving rapidly, jerking left and right hand turns on back streets near the airport, and a car pulled behind and followed, and then another. Unseatbelted, Mark flew back and forth across the bench seat as the driver, buckled in and stable, continued to speed on a sinuous path.
“Where are you going?,” he shouted, and groped the door for a handle he couldn’t find.
Every time the driver approached a main street he said, “Cerrado” – closed – in response to the yellow barriers blocking all entrances, and yanked the taxi another direction. In a short time that felt long to Mark the horn sounded from the car behind, and the driver stopped on a deadend street and both cars pulled up beside the van. The men jumped out and one opened the side door to the van, shoved a pistol about a foot from Mark’s head, and said, “Get out, don’t talk, and get in the trunk,” which the other car driver opened.