And I'm not talking about this kind of gun, although it makes me nervous, too.
As I pulled into the bank parking lot, I realized I would have to look elsewhere for a parking space. The bank whose ATM I use only has six spaces in the parking lot and the lot is almost always full. So I began to pull into the Farmacia Guadalajara next door -- it is similar to Walgreens, with a big parking lot and only a few cars. It was then that I noticed the security guard standing in front with a machine gun slung over his shoulder. You gotta be kidding me, I thought. If I park here is he going to mow me down with that thing? I think machine guns should be reserved for situations like this:
Coming from America, where businesses are territorial about their parking spots, seeing the guard with the machine gun standing in the parking lot where I was about to park and then walk away from the business instead of into it made me more than a little bit nervous. But there was no place else to park -- no safe on-street parking, no other lot that was walkable from the bank.
So I pulled into a spot about 20 feet from the guard. I considered going into the pharmacy and buying something I didn't really need and then heading to the bank from there. I turned off the car and contemplated my next move.
I decided I'd head straight to the bank, knowing that Mexicans don't have the same attitudes about space as we do. People here have no qualms about sharing spaces, so I figured the guard with the machine gun was probably not there to guard the parking lot but rather, possibly, the store.
As I walked past the guard through the parking lot, I felt like a kid lying in bed at night afraid of monsters, wanting to cover herself up with a blanket to keep the monsters away. I debated between running to the bank or walking nonchalantly, pretending that nothing was wrong. I went with the latter and made it to the bank in one piece.
Completing my ATM transaction was a bit difficult since I was plotting both this post and my walk back to the car as I punched in my money request...in Spanish. So difficult, in fact, that I ended up leaving my ATM card in the machine (argh!) and had to go back for it later that morning. It happens every time I'm distracted! When I went back for my card later, I parked in a precarious spot next to the full parking lot and, thankfully, some honest person had given my card to a teller at the bank. Whew. Possible crisis averted.
So, what is the deal with Mexicans and machine guns? This is not the first guard with a machine gun I've seen in Mexico. It's just the first one I've had to walk past while breaking a rule. All of the police here carry maching guns. So do the private security guards. And the military guys posted at various points around the area. Every time I see one with a gun I think, "I gotta get a photo of that for the blog." But I'm afraid they'll shoot me.
Here's my first thought on this, and it's profound so hold onto your seats -- if Jack Bauer carries a handgun, why do these guys need machine guns?
And my second thought -- do all of these machine-gun-carrying-men have psychological exams before being issued a machine gun? Can you imagine the damage from one guy with a screw loose who is carrying one of these guns? What if he doesn't like my shoes? What if he thinks I looked at him wrong? What if I look like his ex-girlfriend who cheated on him?
Seeing these guys with their machine guns makes me nervous. I know it is common in the developing world for law-enforcement guys to carry them but I don't think that makes it necessary or even acceptable. In fact, I think it is just downright scary and it is one aspect of life here that I am sure I will not get used to.