This morning, I drove to the nearby city of Guaymas to get my TelCel SIM card for my phone. Just as I was leaving San Carlos my truck started to make the ‘uh oh, that’s not good!’ noise it makes when oil levels are low. I had checked the level before leaving Nogales, but my dipstick is as useless as my gas gauge, so I was obviously lower than I thought I was. For some unfathomable reason, I didn’t have any oil with me, so I made the decision to drive to Guaymas knowing that I would quickly encounter a Walmart. I went in and looked for the automobile section, finding it in the middle of the store rather than at the periphery. I found 5W-30 weight oil for a gasoline engine and then asked a clerk about the Guía Roja mapbook. She told me to try an Oxxo store!
Out in the parking lot, I added the oil to the truck, glad that I at least had latex gloves, a funnel, and paper towels handy. The one small container did the trick.
Then, I headed downtown to the TelCel store. It was easy to find thanks to a gigantic billboard. The parking lot was a nightmare and I’m just glad I got out of there without crunching anyone. I drove around the block a bit and ended up parking on the street behind the store. I’m starting to understand that as long as there is no crossed out E (for estacionamento/parking), you can park anywhere in Mexico…
The store was huge and a little overwhelming. I first had to stand in line to sign in and get my order started. Croft claims he’s had service there in English, but no one seemed keen on serving me in anything but Spanish. Not a problem, I’d studied all he vocabulary I needed for this. Test time! I explained that I wanted a SIM card for my iPhone to use in Mexico this winter. The greeters had a conversation, apparently agreed on what I wanted, and gave me a ticket, then told me to go stand in line to speak to a representative.
I did so and eventually got to a very nice lady. I reiterated what I had told the greeters, then added that I wanted a small amount of local minutes, needed to be able to text to Canada and the US, and wanted a 3GB data plan. She confirmed that my phone is unlocked, then asked for my ID and processed my order. After that, she told me to go pay and return to her; she would wait. As I headed to the ‘carga’ (checkout), I looked at the bill and noticed that there was a charge for a SIM card and a modem. Huh?
I went back to the lady and asked her about that. She looked mortified. I apologized for being unclear and she said that, no, I was perfectly clear. Of course I would be using my iPhone as the modem! She fixed the bill and then got me to the head of the carga line so I could pay for the SIM card and a very basic plan.
Back I went to the lady and after struggling to get the case off my phone, she switched out the SIM card for me. She was impressed that I had a little plastic SIM card case in my purse in which to store my AT&T card and where my SaskTel card is safely stashed away. That done, I asked about increasing to the 3GB plan and she told me either go back to the carga line or go to… Oxxo. I guess Oxxo is like the Japanese 7-Eleven, one stop shopping for everything!
The carga line wasn’t too long, so I went back there and asked to buy 3GB of banda ancha and then I was free to go. I can’t believe I did the entire thing in Spanish!!!
My total cost was 149MX for the SIM card and basic plan and then 400MXN for the bigger bandwidth plan. I’m not sure how much voice or texting I have and I wasn’t giving any literature, but I did get a few texts so I’ll go read up on that, as well as figure out how to track my bandwidth usage. Bandwidth is expensive here, so I’m going to be conservative. No Netflixing allowed! But this should get me by for quite a bit as long as I’m frugal and use public wifi for big downloads until I get set up with hard wired internet.
The way my truck was parked, I would have had to make a left turn onto very busy MX 15 and there was just too much traffic for that to happen. I figured that I could just circle around the block using main roads. The city does not have a grid pattern and I found myself who knows where, taking the ‘scenic’ route and trying to avoid hitting anyone or being hit myself due to the lack of lane markers and respect for stop signs and lights. I can’t believe how funny I found my situation. I knew that as long as I kept going right I’d end up somewhere familiar and I didn’t feel in any danger. It was just turning into one of those situations that was going to make a great story. And, remember, I found my way out of Flagstaff, so I can navigate anywhere now. 😀
Eventually, I saw in the distance a sign saying the Walmart was that way, so I got into the left lane and quickly found myself back at MX 15. Waiting for the green light to turn, two boys insisted on cleaning my bug splattered windshield and did an amazing job of it in something like 15 seconds! Unfortunately, the only small change I had was a single peso coin, so that’s all I was able to give them. I did get a genuine gracias, so maybe it was enough.
Back on MX 15, I thought it would be an easy and mindless drive back to San Carlos, but it’s a good thing I was very alert because the exit sign was super tiny and low to the ground. I noticed it only at the very last second for making a safe turn. Phew!
The whole process took about two hours round trip, so I’m glad that I did it today instead of on my way to Los Mochis.