Thursday, May 07, 2009

Expat Paranoia Syndrome

Well, Colegio Teizcali and every other primary school in Mexico has been closed for a couple weeks now, and this may be the cause of my sense of reason tipping.

It was set off a couple nights ago when we got a random phone call at midnight. The phone rang and then beeped, indicating there was an urgent message. This unto itself was strange because very few people know our cell phone number, even fewer people use it, and no one calls us a midnight.

I checked the message and it was a man stating my full name, a long list of letters and numbers (beginning with T-H)and a message that I could not make out, not a word of it, for the life of me. I listened about seven more times, jotting down the random letters and numbers. I caught the word "urgent" and I thought I heard the word "vehicle". There was an address and an insistence that we show up to withdraw ("retirar") something.

I am not a worrier, but my heart was pounding in my ears. I ran upstairs to our terrace shouting, "I think our car's been stolen", but there it was, sitting on the street.

And here is where Expat Paranoia Syndrome sets in. Because I live in a foreign country where a certain amount of daily life remains incomprehensible to me, my mind leaped to many unrealistic conclusions. Someone was about to steal our car! It was a warning.

And then my mind wandered to kidnapping. We had to withdraw money from the branch ("sucursal", they said) because they had our kids. But they didn't, our kids were in the house, asleep. Or were they? I checked. They were. But how long would they be there, snug in their beds? I had Steve check all the locks.

Who knew my full name, my cell phone number, and wanted me to withdraw something urgently? Was someone following my wanderings from Colegio Teizcali down to the Volcanes Friday market, to the cactus juice lady on Martyrs of Cananea Street by the Elvis Tortillas shop and then to my bank? I am a creature of habit, I know, and my rituals are downright predictable to the minute, I suspect.

I laid awake feeling like I was in the movie I had just seen that evening "Get Shorty". You never know when a gangster or a mob boss or an investor and his bodyguard might slip into your living room and turn on "David Letterman", do you? And, in a foreign country, with a message I didn't understand, and no working knowledge of how to call the police via my cell phone (or even knowing if police in Oaxaca are a good thing to call, when most evidence points to the contrary), I felt the only solution was to stay awake and ruminate.

In the morning, I stopped the guy that was delivering water to our house. I handed him my cell phone and asked him to listen to the message, that it was urgent and I was worried. He looked at me seriously, listened for a minute and said, "It's DHL. They have a package for you. You need to withdraw it from their branch."

And, you see, this is why Expat Paranoia Syndrome is so insidious. Because, as far-fetched as my midnight wonderings were, it is also ridiculous that a DHL employee would call me at midnight and leave an urgent message to pick up a magazine.

1 comment:

mighty jo said...

oh my god...my mind always leaps to the worst possible thing--yikes! im glad everything turned out to be benign!