An un-Civil Kind of Post

Pity Susan, whoever she might be. I don’t know her last name or even if she actually lives in San Miguel. For all I know, Susan might be a pseudonym for a guy from Nebraska named Irving.

All I know is that this mythical Susan-person is the moderator of the Civil List, an internet bulletin board with almost eighty-two-hundred members who exchange comments, longings, random thoughts—a lot of those—questions large and small, complaints—even more of those—in a seemingly endless, meandering stream of collective consciousness. Check it out:

On an average day over one-hundred postings come in and are electronically distributed to all the members. Wisely, many of them have opted for digest packages of a dozen of so postings at a time instead of receiving each posting separately, which would be like getting stoned to death with popcorn as Archbishop Fulton Sheen once described listening to confessions at a convent.

The focus of the Civil List is life in San Miguel and its tone is supposed to constructive, measured and polite, hence the name. At least one other bulletin board does not have such constraints and there I understand the arguments and name-calling can turn Jerry Springer-ish.

Remember, a large number, if not most, of the members of both lists are retired and have plenty of time to spend at the computer sending each other messages or writing blogs, or pursuing a life of painting, sculpting or other non-time-sensitive pursuits. It’s not like most of us have to run off to work.

But even on the Civil List the discussions heat up beyond the civil boiling point and that’s when the mythical Susan intervenes, in the manner of someone impatiently grabbing a water pistol to keep the cats from scratching the furniture. Or quite often some discussion threads unravel into gibberish and she’ll cut them off with her more civil version of “Shut up already!”

It’s difficult to imagine the patience required to perform her job, starting with, presumably, having to read hundreds of posts daily, many riddled with misspellings and wobbly grammar, leaps of logic or simply adrift from any factual moorings.

This is the Civil List, friends, not The New York Times.

It’s precisely such lack of any credible media in San Miguel that has made the Civil List so popular, the equivalent of an expat newspaper or radio station. I confess to being a member and glancing at the digests because, you never know, there might be something out there ready to bite me, like some change in vehicle or immigration laws.

But over the past few weeks even reading the digests has becoming like hoping for gold nuggets to pop  through an avalanche of gobbledygook.

First you have the inane inquiries: “Where do I get the bus to Mexico City?” (at the bus station?) or  “Where do I buy a travel-size tube of toothpaste?” (have you tried a drugstore?). As a friend of mine observed, “Some people here need to get out of the house.”

Second in frequency and contentiousness is the innocuous-sounding question, “Does anyone know of a good dentist?” That inevitably triggers volleys and counter-volleys of posters defending their dentist or skewering someone else’s.

Most recently someone recommended my own dentist, Dra. Guadalupe Tejeda (not TejAda as her name appeared in numerous postings), and that started a string of venomous postings charging her with several odontological misdeeds. Finally someone wrote that they were going to print all the postings and bring them to Dra. Tejeda, who’ll probably conclude the brains of her gringo patients are as mushy as their teeth.

Susan, where were you?

In my experience, Dra. Tejeda is occasionally late for appointments and that she mumbles so fast in Spanish I’m never sure if she wants me to open or shut my mouth. Other than that, she’s fine.

The most recent and perhaps longest debate in Civil List history concerns changes in the Mexican immigration system which apparently will force some expats to nationalize or import their American or Canadian cars, instead of continuing to drive them with temporary permits.

Should I drive my car to Chihuahua, Querétaro, Celaya, Nuevo Laredo or Guadalajara seeking the miracle of trans-nationalization? The brainstorms go on and on.

Indeed, this thread has been singularly long, contradictory and even misleading. I know of a few people who took one of the cures suggested on the Civil List and each lost US$450 to a shifty lawyer in Ajijic, near Guadalajara. And despite all the keystrokes and megabytes wasted on this topic I don’t know of a single person who has successfully nationalized his American wheels.

As you may have gathered, I need to take a break from the Civil List, cold turkey, maybe for a couple of weeks.

Then I’d better give some serious thought to what the hell we’re going to do to nationalize our 2000 Nissan Frontier pickup and 2003 Volkswagen Passat station wagon, both of which are registered in South Dakota.

Why South Dakota if we came from Chicago? That’s another story. All I can tell you is that idea actually came from Civil List—and that it was a good one.


21 thoughts on “An un-Civil Kind of Post

  1. Or how about taking the vehicles north and buying Mexican-plated vehicles on your return. As you know, I did that with the dozen-year old Shiftless Escape. And, if the money that just left my account in Los Angeles ends up in a dealer's hands in Guadalajara, I will soon be driving a 2013 Escape. A new green car with my new green card. Does it get much better than that?


  2. Seeking variety in my Internet reading, I subscribed to the Civil List. I wasn't too surprised that I don't have much tolerance for reading much of the drivel therein. I believe that I posted a Reply only twice. The last one, in which I suggested some Centro Querétaro hotels in response to an inquiry, got a Rejection Letter from another “Friendly Moderator”, for the reason that “it didn't have a signature.” I hadn't been aware that I needed a signature.I decided at that point that I wouldn't be posting any more. Further reading would be limited to when I might be terminally bored and needed some masochistic entertainment. On the subject of nationalizing vehicles, etc, ad nauseam; Al, I agree with you about the discussion on forums as being misleading (I'll add, ill informed, delusion, hey! don't get me started.) That's all I have to say about that.Saludos,Don Cuevas


  3. Congratulations! We're seriously thinking about a new car, and the Escape is at the top of the list. I only wish I could get one with a manual transmissions, but a stick in Mexico evidently has become synonymous with “cheap” and most brands don't offer it except in really small cars. al


  4. One of my “favorite” posts in recent weeks was from the person who wanted to BORROW a “3 inch square of sandpaper and a screwdriver”. Seriously. Really?? And by the way, the poster of that complex request has since been banned from the Civil List. “Strange brew, that's what gets into you…”Gotta love it and the puffed up pseudo-power of the invisible moderators.I'm gonna sign this so you don't ban me from your blog.Tina


  5. Anonymous

    Much like changing the channel on the TV if you do not like the program, it is as easy to unsubscribe as is is too subscribe. Susan and those “puffed up moderators” do this for free and without some rules and moderation the list would be unusable. Seems to be a trend in SMA to stand on the sidelines and lob insults but never want to enter the game.


  6. Anonymous

    I loved it when a lister posted: I want to try several local tequilas. Can someone offer me tastings so I can decide which to buy?I wonder if the List sometimes functions as a place to thrash out social standing — people kind of lose their previously achieved status when they move to Mexico — some folks on the List keep really busy putting others down. This phenomenon interests me.


  7. Susan is a real person but lives and works in the US. I have met her when she was visiting here. She has a relative who lives here and I think she visits when she can. One can go through the digests pretty quickly and occasionally glean some useful information IMO. There is a lot you can skip, of course.


  8. Anonymous

    Love it/Hate it – definitely both for me. Cannot seem to Love it or leave it.I don't live in SMA so it keeps me in touch between two or three visits a year. I have several blogs that I also check in on regularly – all of you are truly civil. I click “interesting” on yours frequently, & “funny” for this one.I don't know how you can even stand to receive Civil in digest form. I selected “web only”, so I receive NO email. I go to the website – I've bookmarked it to open on latest messages – & scroll thru the messages. I can easily see the subject line in bold type, the first three lines & the name of the poster, then click to read entire post if I'm interested.Being somewhat perverse – I always read the posts by the wacky posters – ie”sandpaper borrower” and “tequila taster”.Susan is really a woman who lives in California. Years ago I met a reliable source, a relative of hers in SMA.I chose anonymous because those profiles don't work for me…but, I'm Lena James.


  9. Easy there “Anonymous” 11:38 a.m.–at least we came “full frontal” to the party with our names. 🙂 But if one hangs around reading Civil for very long, you are bound to see some pretty crazy stuff mixed in with the occasionally helpful stuff. No harm, no foul. And I think anyone reading any of the blogs or forums based in San Miguel on a regular basis obviously have a great big soft spot for Mexico. Pretty sure Al and Stew do, and I know I do as well. Enjoy the day.


  10. Anonymous

    I've long thought that the only way to keep the list 'civil' would be to require people to sign-up in person, with photo ID, and with a photo of themselves beside every comment they make. There are many people on the list I would hope to never cross paths with socially. I rarely post. If I do, it's information only, with no room for commentary or on-going discussion.I didn't see mention of the self-righteous. On they go about their 'topic-of-choice', putting others down in the process, and ten minutes later are looking for help on another issue. Good grief, even my dog seems to understand cause and effect.Funnily enough, people rush in to help them. Good with the bad, wheat with the chaffe … I scan for much the same reason you do, to catch any huge change in immigration, vehicle, etc. that might affect me. Otherwise, I agree with others who have said here, and on the list, most of these people need to get out more.And yes, my favorite posting recently was the person wanting to borrow the sandpaper and screwdriver. Perhaps I could avoid buying toilet paper the same way?Thanks for the giggle this afternoon.


  11. Loved your blog post. I also agree with it. I read the Civil List because I don't reside there yet and it's a good way to keep up with what's going on. I pick and choose what to read though. It can drive me pretty crazy.Poor Susan!Cheryl


  12. I haven't entered the Mad house of “Civil_List” in 5 months. It is the domain of blowhards, ninnies, and hapless fools. The endless issues of adopting wandering and lost dogs, renewing the visa in light of new laws, writing bonehead harsh restaurant did me in. I used to help people who posted computer problems, but that is a casualty of my having read too many civil reports. My wife does read CL and she did pull out the plum leading to my enrollment in an excellent art class. What really is wrong about CL is the monitors don't monitor. They like the power role of banning informed people instead of the witless dingbats who want to know what aisle Pickalili is on in Mega.


  13. Anonymous

    If you poke around, the authors, a pair of Gringos from California, did manage to nationalize a car they originally bought in California. It wasn't an easy process, but with persistence, they managed. Saludos,Kim GBoston, MAWhere we think Mexico would be a pretty easy place to live without a car.


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