Several months ago Miguel and I were standing outside a department store in Cancun, leaning on the row of carts and discussing where to go next to look for the special cream he needs for his burns. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a man in a white shirt watching us; he came over and I thought we were going to be told to move along and stop leaning on their carts.
But this guy had overheard our conversation and suggested that Miguel check out the pharmacy in the store we were standing in front of. While Miguel was in the store I continued leaning on the carts (we'd been shopping for what seemed like hours, and I was tired) and the guy leaned with me. Somehow I ended up telling the man about Miguel's accident and that he needs this special cream to help with his scars. The guy suggested we go to a drugstore called "Ahorro" - one I'd never heard of before. I was still thinking this was a security person who worked for the store who happened to know a lot about drugstores.
When Miguel came out empty-handed, the guy asked if we wanted to go to Ahorro. We said yes, and the guy took us over to a cab, loaded our stuff in and then opened the driver's side door. At that point I realized this man was a taxi driver - light-bulb moment! So off we went to Ahorro. That particular store did not have the cream but they checked the inventory and told us where to go to find one that did. The taxi driver took us to the next store and we got a tube of cream.
That's when Luis started to have a place in our lives. He told us we should buy two tubes so we wouldn't have to look for it for a while. Made sense, so we went back in the store but they did not have any more to sell us. We ended up driving around for almost an hour looking for Miguel's cream because now Luis had us on a mission - to find that second tube. But it was a cheerful trip - sort of like a tour of downtown Cancun, parts I'd never seen before. And Luis and I got to know each other a little better while we waited for Miguel. We discussed the challenges of multi-cultural relationships. He told me this is how Mexican men are (when discussing certain traits), his wife complains about the same things. No big deal, asi es.
Luis was very personable and he and Miguel seemed to hit it off. By this time Luis knew the details of the accident and a lot of other things about us - our pets, Miguel's homeland (Oaxaca), my frequent trips to the airport, etc. Miguel did ask him right off the bat if his intention was to charge us a lot of money to drive us around, and then they both laughed. No - this taxi driver was genuinely interested in finding the cream for Miguel, and at one store he took out a pen and wrote down the phone number of the store so we could call ahead next time and make sure they had the cream in stock. Just a very nice guy, and we took his number.
The next time we went to Cancun we called Luis and he picked us up at Puerto Juarez and took us to a bunch of places, including a different pharmacy where Miguel was just supposed to check the price of the burn cream. I guess our signals got crossed because Miguel came back with two tubes of cream, at a cost of an extra $150 pesos each ($30 US extra). Miguel was so happy to have found the cream that Luis and I didn't say anything about the extra cost.
Most of our chores done and with just Walmart to go, we decided to eat before hitting Walmart - at a restaurant across the street. Although Luis offered to wait for us to eat, since we didn't know how long we'd be and we didn't have much in the way of purchases, we told Luis goodbye and let him get on with his day.
After eating we walked over to Walmart. We were in the middle of our shopping there when my cell phone rang. It was Luis, wondering where we were and how long we'd be - he was outside Walmart waiting for us. So Luis waited for us and then took us to the ferry. We gave him a nice tip - he'd spent a good amount of time with us, he was almost like family by now.
Luis knew Miguel was going to Oaxaca in October and they discussed that Miguel would call to take him to the airport. But Miguel left really early in the morning and we didn't want to bother Luis that early in the morning - Miguel just took a cab from the street. And when I flew out several days later I wasn't sure until the last minute which ferry I would be taking, so I just took my chances with the street taxis too. Several other trips to Cancun involved larger purchases - fridge, chairs, etc - and we needed a large cab to transport, so ended up using another cabbie. We have about 4 cabbies we can call, and we like to give them all some business as there isn't much now, and they are nice guys just trying to make a living.
Yesterday I had to get my picture taken for my FM3. I told Miguel we should call Luis because he would know a studio we could go to where the pictures would be ready quickly. I pulled out all my papers with numbers and was about to call Luis, when we decided that first we'd just see if we'd get a cabbie who knew where to take us. So I stuffed my numbers back into my wallet and we hopped a cab and he took us to a place across from the bus station. The pictures were a little pricier than usual, but would be ready in 20 minutes. We had a couple of other errands to do in the area and then just waved down a cab in the street to take us to Walmart.
In the middle of the store, looking at light bulbs, we bumped into Luis. "Where have you been, mis amigos? You went on vacation and then what happened to you?" He said he had been going through his cell phone just that morning and came across our number and wondered why he hadn't heard from us. Were we ok? Didn't we like his service? What happened that we hadn't called? We told him that we had just about called him just that day because I said he would know where to take me for the pictures. As proof, I pulled out the wad of papers and showed him that his number was right on top. We made up excuses for not calling him (valid excuses, but he might not think so). We never told him we'd called other cabbies. Shhh!
It was such a coincidence - us standing in the one aisle Luis was in (he was there to buy glue) and bumping into him. When we'd both been thinking about the other that very day, and there we suddenly all were. Of course we told him to wait for us, we were buying a tv and it would be really convenient to stuff all our purchases into his cab and not worry about them and continue our shopping. And of course we had to go to Ahorro to get more cream for Miguel's scars and Luis knew right where to take us. While Miguel was in the store, Luis commented about the last time he'd taken us to that other pharmacy and remarked that Miguel was not supposed to buy that cream there, just check the price. How much more did we have to pay? Crazy man - buying two tubes at a cost of $30 and not thinking about the additional cost. Luis remembered every detail about us - were we really that interesting or did he just have a good memory?
So Luis left us at the ferry with promises we would call him the next time we go to Cancun. And we will...because if we don't, Luis will track us down anyway. Sometimes you just have to go with what is right in front of you. Luis is a great cab driver, down to earth, honest, and he likes us and we like him. Almost family.