Thursday, March 11, 2010

Part of the Big 50

In my post about why I don't fly, I casually mentioned one of the problems living in New Mexico. People don't realize that New Mexico is part of the union called the United States of America. Here are a few of my experiences:

Back in 1981, I happened to be near Denver, Colorado, visiting my gramma, my aunt, and my cousin. Since I arrived by bus, my aunt generously let me use her car for the day. I was traveling down a boulevard at the posted speed limit, wondering why everyone else who were going the same way were speeding past me. Coming from a small town in southern New Mexico, driving above the posted speed limit was the best way to get a ticket. As I was thinking this, I noticed flashing lights in my rear-view and started looking for a safe place to pull over. Once that was accomplished, I realized that the cop was still behind me. I did the normal "What did I do WRONG" panic-dance in my brain. He came up and asked me for my driver's license and proof of insurance. I handed my aunt's insurance card and my New Mexico driver's license. He looked at that--looked at me--looked back at the driver's license and then asked me if I had my visa. I looked at him like he was stupid.
ME: Why would I need a visa? Isn't my driver's license good enough?
Cop: You need a visa or a passport to come into the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (The latter was yelled out like I could hear him better this way). 
ME:  I'm a citizen of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! (repeating a cop's stupid idiocy is not always wise, but I was a brash 19 year old at the time and thought I was "cool.")
Cop: You're from Mexico! It says so right here!
ME: I'm from NEW MEXICO. I live about 100 miles NORTH of El Paso, Texas. You know where El Paso, Texas is right? El Paso borders Mexico--I'm from a hundred miles north of El Paso. Why did you pull me over anyway?
Cop: (Still mulling the quick geography lesson over) What? Oh, you were driving the speed limit. 
ME: (Now I'm dumbfounded) Yeah? Is that illegal....sir?
Cop: You were impeding traffic. You have to drive the same speed as the rest of the drivers or you can cause an accident. (Now he's all smug giving me a lesson about life in a metropolis.) 

I got off with a warning but that incident I just naturally tossed out as someone not as well versed in geography as he should be...Until the next time.

In the 1990s, I worked as a portrait studio manager. At the time, most of the portrait studios' labs and headquarters were based in North Carolina. The first time I had to call headquarters back east, I got a lesson in how to talk slowly--because that was during my days of drinking a couple pots of coffee alone. I also got a lesson that people didn't always know where New Mexico was.

Me: Hi! This is Cathryn from Studio XYZ in Albuquerque, New Mexico and we have a problem with our camera. I think it's the powerpack since----
Customer Service Rep: Hold on Dahrlin--you are speaking way to fast for me. Slow it down. We have lots of time. 
Me: I'm Cathryn from Studio XYZ--
Rep: Ok...From Studio XYZ...Where you located Dahrlin?
Me: (Big deep breath, trying to ignore the screaming of children, moms, and associates) This studio---Studio XYZ--is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico and----
Rep: Since when did this company start putting in studios overseas?
Me: Huh?!?!?! What do you mean?
Rep: I didn't realize that we had studios across the ocean in Mexico! That's a new one on me!

It took me a minute to realize that the person on the phone thought Mexico and Spain were synonymous. Same country obviously. Both speak Spanish and eat Spanish foods. *picture me dying with laughter here*

When I did a lateral move to another company that had their company based in North Carolina--and I swear the portrait studios headquarters were all down the street from each other--I got this interesting experience.

Rep: Cathryn, we are going to send out a couple of service guys. They will be catching the plane in the morning. We feel that you need tech support to resolve your problem in your studio. (I had several electrical shorts that were burning out equipment.) However, one of the techs wants to know if he needs vaccinations and can he drink the water? And will someone meet him at the airport because he don't speak no Spanish. 

Considered me educated by this time.

It wasn't until I had to fly back east for my son's grandmother's funeral. She passed away peacefully shortly after September 11th, 2001. Flying back was an interesting adventure since the Patriot Act had been enacted. At the time, I was in the middle of Washington DC on the metro (subway for those of you who didn't know) I couldn't hear what the conductor said. I was afraid of missing my stop because my son's aunt was specific about NOT missing the connection to her office. So I asked the lady in front of me what stop the conductor said was coming up.

Lady: It's the Blue Line connection coming up. Are you from here?
Me: Thank you and no, I'm not. I'm from New Mexico.
Lady: Wow! Your English and accent are so good, I thought you were a citizen of THIS country. You aren't dark at all--not with your blonde hair! Amazing!
Me: Amazingly, your English is very good too! Thank you for telling me--this is where I get off.

Flying back home, I sat next to this gentleman who was flying into Arizona. He was going to visit some kin who had moved there. He asked me where I was going, and I told him I was going home to New Mexico. He said he didn't realize that we were flying there and he didn't bring his passport. Before I could correct his assumption, he asked the passing flight attendant if he was going to get into trouble for not bringing his passport when we flew into Mexico. I had to explain to him that NEW Mexico was next door to Arizona. 

My husband told me of how when he started using eBay, he had to spell out NEW MEXICO, USA on his address so people didn't try to charge him with international postage or refuse to sell to him because "they didn't do international sales." 

We live in New Mexico and yes, we are the only state that has to add USA on our drivers' licenses and vehicle tags.


  1. Why darlin', I've got a good friend in New Mexico; you'd never know she was from Nawth Kalina. Vaccinashuns (we call 'em shots) and drinking the water are optional heah! Y'all come!
    Ha ha!

  2. Up until last week I would have suggested getting a roll of New Mexico quarters to hand out whenever you encounter non-enlightened people. But that wouldn't work for a phone conversation. Last week I learned that 6 quarters honoring the District of Columbia and the US Territories were minted in 2009. So that might confuse them even more.

    Maybe it's because I started school in the '50s but doesn't anyone have to learn geography anymore?

  3. I knew New Mexico was a US state - all the way over here in N Ireland - promise!

    We get that a lot in mainland UK, who don't believe we are also part of UK :)

  4. This should surprise me but it doesn't. People seem to not know a lot of things that they should.

  5. I totally understand where you are comming from, as a child I spen my summers in Portales New Mexico with my grandmother........I recently told someone about my childhood summers with my mothers family in New Mexico,
    and they said it must have been wonderful learning the culture of my people that summering in my mothers home land........I am bloned and blue eyed and pale skinned, being mostly dutch.....and still they thought I was Mexican.......funny

  6. I really laughed a lot when I read this - your stories are so funny. Can you imagine the questions I get sometimes being a german "invading" the US? It is weird to know that a lot of people in the US have not left "the english speaking zone" and do not know what it is like to be in a place where they do not understand what people say. I grew up that way, being in Europe, with every single vacation in a different country, just because it is so closer, even closer than to move from one state to the next in the US. I am speaking 8 languages including german - I would say I am fluent in 5. To go on vacation for me, and not trying to learn the words feels like not understanding their culture.
    In case I did not mention it - I also knew that New Mexico is not in Mexico ;-)
    Thanks for those fun stories. I missed reading your blog in the past days.

  7. Cathryn...that is frightening! Geez!

  8. Quite a story!
    I am new to your blog but I will be back!

  9. I've had heard many of these as well from my New Mexico friends. This nation should be ashamed of its collective geographic stupidity.

    Again, I hate flying. Don't know how I'm ever going to visit Ireland....

  10. Oh for pity's sake! I cannot believe how ignorant some people are! But I understand your story. I grew up in Vancouver, WA and you get used to having to explain you are not Canadian.

    Thank you so much much for the lovely earrings. Now that I am on Spring break I will post about them. =)