Time Travel in México

By Jane M. Downs
We had recently arrived in Puerto Vallarta and I needed to see a doctor. I got a referral and set up a nine o’clock appointment at Hospital San Javier Riviera, Nuevo Vallarta, a resort town in the adjacent state of Nayarit. Nayarit doesn’t observe daylight savings time which meant that Puerto Vallarta was an hour behind Nayarit. After confirming the time difference on-line, we calculated the driving time to be fifteen miles, find an ATM, withdraw pesos for payment and track down the doctor.

We got in our truck at nine o’clock and set Google Maps to Hospital San Javier Riviera. But
Google kept directing us to the wrong hospital in Puerto Vallarta. After three tries, I remembered the referral said the hospital was next to the Paradise Plaza in Nuevo Vallarta. We entered that name and the hospital popped right up.

Emboldened by Google’s authoritative but not too threatening female voice, we turned out of the parking lot, drove past the statue of a woman golfer caught forever in the middle of a perfect swing and headed to the towering statue of Neptuno, spear in hand, astride a gigantic dolphin.

Turn left Miss Google commanded. My husband calmly turned onto Route 200, a busy two-lane main road connecting Puerto Vallarta to destinations north. Go straight 15 miles, then take 3rd exit.

We sped along the highway, past hotels, restaurants, beaches, rows of small stores with tin roofs, some empty with broken windows, a ten-foot-high ceramic statue of a Mexicanized Marilyn Monroe, standing over an imaginary NYC subway vent, her plaster skirt blowing around her, and a succession OXXO stores—Mexico’s version of U.S. 7-11 convenience stores right down to hot dogs sweating on electric grills. Behind the mishmash of buildings, the Pacific glistened in the morning sun.

A few miles outside of town, the landscape opened to dry fields, rows of cultivated palm trees, a housing project of small white stucco houses nestled in a copse of straggly trees.

The motion of the truck cruising over smooth pavement, daylight flashing between buildings and trees lulled me. Listening to the competent Miss Google guide us, I experienced an altered perception. Her voice was a kind of magic carpet lifting us above the strain of creased maps and arguments about where to turn. No longer was I worried about being late or that my husband was driving too fast or berating myself for my lack of self discipline to learn Spanish.

My mind drifted as I sank into the tropical landscape, admired trees for their majesty, the green canopy they made over the road.

After thirty minutes, we arrived in Nuevo Vallarta. Drove past golf courses and driveways
leading to gated communities. My husband pointed out lines of workmen, maids and grounds keepers in beat up trucks and cars waiting to claim their identity cards before passing by a guard house and through formidable iron gates to begin a day’s work.

Another roundabout, a slight left turn, and we sat in front of the parking lot of the Joya Riviera Hospital. My composure collapsed. Where were we?. No Hospital San Javier Riviera. No Paradise Plaza. We are looking for the Hospital San Javier Riviera? my husband asked the parking lot guy in pretty good Spanish. We followed his directions and drove to the parking lot on the other side of the hospital where another parking lot guy, told us in perfect English the hospital changed its name to Joya Riviera and directed us to the front door.

Fortunately, there was a Banco Santander a few doors away, but it looked closed. While we were scrambling together pesos from my purse, my husband’s wallet and pants pockets an armored truck pulled in front of the bank. Two very young men got out, one with a shot gun, the other, with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. The one with the shotgun walked into the bank. Suddenly, an Abierto sign appeared. The bank opened. We got our money.

At the hospital Information Station, we learned there was no time change. It was ten o’clock not nine. We were one hour late! A young woman graciously suggested in English we explain our confusion at the doctor’s office. The corridors were empty and quiet as we walked to the elevator and pressed the button for the second floor.

A receptionist sitting behind a glass window smiled at us and welcomed us in English.
I´m Jane Downs. I have a nine o’clock appointment. I know it’s ten o’clock. I’m so sorry
we’re late, I blurted out. We got the times mixed up. I’m so sorry. We thought you were
an hour later than Puerto Vallarta.

Ms Downs, your appointment isn’t for nine it’s for ten, she said sweetly. Have a seat and
fill this out. We’ll call you when she’s ready.

My husband and I looked at each other. I don’t get it. I was told my appointment was for nine not ten. Look. I said, unfolding the computer printout. Maybe they got the time change wrong in the other direction.

My husband smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He said what he’s said a hundred times in the month we’ve been here, “We’re in Mexico! By some magic, things always work out.”


Previous article
Next article

Most Popular