Everyone in Puebla knows about Calle 46. Even as I was putting on the spare tire at 11:30 pm in a badly lit street (thank you Don Thomas for the light!), the owner of the restaurant where we had spent the evening, and the new friends we had met there (who were parked right behind us), both told us that we might even find our actual missing wheel in Calle 46. Nacho and I navigated the busy streets of Puebla, ducking in and out of side streets to avoid road closures due to construction, while he told me about Calle 46. Calle 46 is where all the "hot" parts get sold/reunited to/with the someone/actual previous owners who would like to buy them. The entire street and surrounding area is basically the spare car parts store for the entire city. Now, you can, if you want, just go to Auto Zone, which they do have here, but they don't sell wheels for a Prius, and they certainly wouldn't have OUR wheel, but in Calle 46 there was a very good chance we would find our actual wheel.
After about 20 mins, Nacho and I arrived in the general area of Calle 46. I knew this because we were immediately chased down by young men on BMX bikes offering to sell us a new rim. Our little donut is yellow, so we were very easy to spot. Nacho negotiated through the window. The BMX bandits said they had a wheel and the price was 2500.00 pesos. Nacho waived them off, and offered 2000.00 and not a peso more (while I thought....2500.00? a bargain compared to Toyota!), but before I could say anything the BMX bandidos were on there way and Nacho told me to drive on. I told him about the price at Toyota and he said don't worry, don't worry....we will get your wheel back. His easy manner and reassurance was soothing. Somehow, I totally trusted this guy, so I drove on.
Two minutes later we were parked outside a little hole in the wall, among a mile long strip of little holes in the wall, selling wheels, front-ends, bumpers, mirrors and basically anything that can quickly be removed from the outside of any vehicle. Again Nacho, this time out of the car, went to work. There were three men and one woman in this particular "tienda" and they quickly began to communicate with other "tiendas"via those walkie talkie phones. "Chirp.....tweet....blah blah blah....Toyota....chirp....tweet.....blah blah blah....Prius " Nacho held firm 2000.00 pesos. One of the men jumped on a bike (can you guess what kind?) and rode down the street. After a few minutes, I got out of the car. I had experienced this kind of transaction before many years ago in Peru although I have to say that the car parts neighborhood in Peru was much much scarier than Calle 46. The men and the woman were friendly, sympathetic even, and Nacho spoke with them easily. He told them of the time he had had all four of his wheels stolen. They all laughed. There were quite a few "pendejos" and "chingas" and other colorful words strewn about the place by the time the young man who had left on the bike returned.
There was good news and bad news. The good news? They had a/the wheel. The bad news? They didn't want to bring it because it was too "hot", too "soon" and they were afraid of selling it back so fast. We were told to come back tomorrow. I was surprised by both the good news and the bad news. Really? Our actual wheel? Really? It is "too soon" to sell it back? Nacho, exacerbated, said tell them to bring it, we are ready to buy it. I was ready to come back tomorrow. I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. The young man left on the bike again. Each time he went he was gone for more than 5 mins. I stood nervously in the sun, I introduced myself to the owners of the store, I bought some flowers from a passing young lady for Anne and I quietly hoped for good news, while Nacho, in his pointy black cowboy boots, his Ray-Bans, jeans and blue button up collared shirt oozed confidence and was not intimidated in the least.
The news was the same. They have it, but they want to wait....it is too hot....come back tomorrow. Nacho, throwing his hands in the air and saying some thing like (for fucks sake!)...told them to go and tell the (little bastards) to bring the (fucking) wheel. This time the woman went on the bike. She was not gone long when she came back and said they will bring it, but there is a problem. They want 6000.00 pesos. Nacho nearly lost it....there were a lot more "pendejos" and "chingas" and he motioned me to get in the car. I did and Nacho got in too. I started the car and was ready to pull away when he said "wait, wait". The negotiations continued through the window. Nacho would not give another peso. Finally they agreed on 2200.00 pesos....about $170.00. 2000.00 for the owners of the/our wheel and 200 as a finders fee for the owners of the store. The woman said give me the $ and I will bring it. Nacho told me to give them the money. I refused. I was not going to give them the money until I saw the wheel. Nacho said it was OK. Again, I refused. "Tell them to bring it and I will pay them". The woman left on the bike again.
30 seconds later here comes a man carrying our wheel....our actual wheel....we know this because Anne had two Bridgestone tires on the back and two of another brand on the front. The tire they brought was a Bridgestone with the exact same wear as the other. I didn't argue, accuse, or hesitate in any way. I handed over the cash and began to put the wheel in the trunk. The owner of the store said "wait, we will put the wheel (back) on for you". How nice, I thought. They put the wheel on while I thanked the owners of the store and told them that I hope I don't ever see them again. Nacho and I drove home.....I couldn't believe what had just happened. In less than 17 hours since it went missing in a city of 4 million people, we had our wheel back....our ACTUAL wheel. Incredible. I told Nacho Anne was going to kiss him.....and she did. We were both very happy and felt we had learned a valuable lesson. After all, it could have been much much worse. They could have taken all four wheels, they could have smashed one window and been off with my guitar and my iPad. We were lucky.
Our wheel...right back where it belongs
Nacho: Our friend, neighbor, and angel
Sorry this blog has been so long. Thanks for sticking with me. We are not too upset with the folks who stole the wheel. In a country with serious poverty issues people look for ways to survive. In another life I know I could easily be the wheel thief. Lesson learned, nobody got hurt, and we will be much smarter from now on. For the record, we don't think our car was targeted because we had foreign plates or because it is fairly new. The car parked behind us would have shielded our plate from being seen by a casual observer. Our car was targeted because it was in the right spot. A badly lit street, at night, where it was easy for them to take the wheel without being seen. Again, lesson learned.
OK. I should end this thing. Thank you to Anne for asking me to be her first guest blogger and also for being my partner on this little journey. I can't imagine doing this....living in Mexico....with anyone else. She is brave, adventurous, funny, beautiful and I am so glad we have been able to share 6.5 years together. Today is her 31st birthday too!....Happy Birthday babe!...I love you!