Pump Up The Volume
Anyone who buys gas at the Todos Santos Pemex station eventually gets to know all the guys who work there. Each of them has always been very helpful and kind to your Milkmaid. One of them, Marco Antonio Orozco Miranda (whew!) was born and raised here and even speaks English! He’s from a huge family of 11 kids. (He will be identified as MA, since we are both MM and that would be most confusing for you.)
MM: Marco, how long has this station been here, and how long have you worked here?
MA: It has been here for 25 years and has had three owners. I’ve worked here for two years.
MM: Does the current owner live here in Todos Santos?
MA: No, he lives in Monterey, but visits a couple of times a year. He is very nice.
MM: Does he also own the new station in Pescadero?
MA: No, that one is owned by a different group.
MM: Oh, so there must be some competition for the same customers. Has that one impacted your business here?
MA: Yes, there is competition, and I’d say our business has probably dropped 20% now. The main difference between us, though, is that we carry diesel fuel and they don’t.
MM: You know, Marco, there are many nightmarish stories about what goes on in the various Pemex stations. Have you heard all the horrible tales of tourists getting ripped off? Things like paying with dollars and getting the wrong change in pesos because of their unfamiliarity with Mexican money. Or not starting the meter at 0, or in some places the meters being adjusted to pump less gas than is shown, and therefore the customer is charged for more than they really get? Are you aware of any incidences of dishonest practices like these?
MA: I do hear stories sometimes, but it is impossible here. We can’t do that. Everything is controlled by computers, and they are locked up. Only the manager has access to them, and we have a good manager. Besides, Profeco inspectors make surprise visits regularly to check the pumps and ensure the liter readings are correct. Nobody knows when they will come. Sometimes they show up in the middle of the night, sometimes at noon or in the early mornings. They have special equipment and close down every pump to check each one.
MM: And have they ever found anything “not right” here?
MA: I don’t think so. Before the new owner took over last year, there were some problems, but not now.
MM: Hmmmm. I think you’d have a tough time convincing some members of our local community about that one, but I hope you’re right. Tell me more about you and your family.
MA: My wife and children live in La Paz. My daughter is 15 and my son is 8. My wife is an elementary school teacher.
MM: That must be so hard with you living here all week.
MA: Well, I’m 45 years old and no one else will give me a job. The locals don’t like to work on Saturdays and Sundays, so I do. I see my family once a week.
MM: Have you ever traveled anywhere?
MA: Oh yes. I was in the Merchant Marines for three years and went all around the world. I saw Brazil, Samoa, Venezuela, the Antilles and many other places.
MM: Wow! That’s great. Is there anything you have dreamt about doing that you haven’t done?
MA: I want to write a novel. I am a dreamer. Ideas come into my brain all the time and I write them on napkins or anything I can find. I also write poetry, but only for my wife.
MM: How romantic. Tell me, what is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you at this station?
MA: Well, one night I was working the shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. with two other guys. We were talking in the corner, and I saw the shadow of a woman cross the street. She walked along the wall here and into the ladies room. I asked Pedro, my buddy, to check it out, but he saw nobody. We looked all around both bathrooms, and nobody was there. The other two guys started to shake.
MM: Oh boy! A haunted gas station.
MA: Oh yeah. Lots of strange things happen here. This was a sugar cane mill 30 years ago. We see and hear things all the time. Those two guys never want to work the night shift again!
MM: I bet not. Tell me, did you have a childhood nickname?
MA: Yes, everybody called me Don Marco, like the mafia. I am thought to be too serious a man.
MM: And on that note, is there anything special you would like to say to our readers?
MA: Yes. The sun comes every day for all the people. The only thing you have to do is keep God, love and warmth in your heart, and work hard to make your dreams come true. Money is not important for me. Seeing smiles on my children’s faces, feeling the air on my face, the sun over the trees and the flowers growing is what matters. Oh and a piece of bread for the birds. I feed the chickens here every day.
MM: Oh, that’s sweet Marco. Thank you so much for your time, and I think maybe you should be writing poetry for all of us, not just your wife.