27. helmi, 2018

Trouble in traffic at the US border

 We’re in a queue of cars, crawling slowly towards the U.S. border, alongside twenty three other jam packed lanes. In between the queues there are people selling everything from bread and snacks to last minute souvenirs. It’s a typical morning here in Tijuana, San Ysidro, home to the world’s busiest border. We’ve been queuing for nearly an hour, and there’s still a good 100m to go before we’ll get to the official customs and border control.

There’s a sudden metallic bang, and we nudge forward unexpectedly. We’re pretty sure that someone has just driven to the back of us, so Pekka jumps out to check out what’s happened. It’s not a pretty sight; a black car from the queue next to us has crashed into the back of our vehicle, creating a hole in the seam that joins the rear of the car to the side. There’s a huge scratch in the side of the black car too, so now we can but try and sort this out, in the middle of moving traffic. As we soon discover, the surrounding cars turn out to be the least of our worries.

The Mexican lady behind the wheel in the black vehicle doesn’t want to resolve the matter. She’s refusing to respond to either of us, and won’t even open her door or window, despite our efforts to knock, and communicate in both English and Spanish. The queue is moving towards the border, slowly but surely, so I run to the border control office, and ask for police assistance. To my surprise, all the officers at the border are American and they explain that because the incident has occurred on Mexican soil, they have no authority over the matter and I would need the help of the Mexican police. The pressing problem is, that if the other driver gets across the border before we’ve got things resolved, they will be able to drive off to the sunset without taking any responsibility at all.

The only thing I can do to stop the lady from escaping, is to stand in front of her car and call emergency services. She honks her horn, but I won’t budge. She proceeds to nudge me with the car but I’m standing my ground and staying put. Emergency services promise to send a police officer to us and in the mean time, Pekka moves our car off road, so that we don’t hold up two lanes while we wait.

The police finally arrive and they manage to get the woman out of her car. Things are getting pretty tense and heated at this point as we try to come to an agreement on compensation, but as suspected, the lady has no money. Thankfully she does have a valid insurance at least.

Now, to the exciting part! We have to make a U-turn and somehow weave our way through 24 lanes of traffic that are all moving to the opposite direction to us. I’m holding my breath, fearing another crash. The police are doing their best to direct the oncoming traffic.

We end up spending several hours at the police station, before the visibly bored empoyees even start writing an incident report. This allows me an opportunity to chat and exchange some stories with the nervous Mexican lady, while her son who has just arrived on the scene goes with Pekka to get our car looked at. He turns out to be incredibly helpful in this situation, since he speaks both English and Spanish fluently.

We get Epeli sorted and shake hands with the other driver at the police station, parting ways on good terms. By the time we get back to the queue, it’s late afternoon. Our second attempt to cross the border goes smoothly and we arrive on US soil without any further issues.