How Getting My Rental Motor Scooter Stolen in Mexico Cured My Money Issues
I grew up Jewish, and the money stereotypes about me were true.
My family always had enough money, yet we bargained like we didn’t.
Throughout my life, I watched my Bubbe calculate tips by first subtracting the tax and giving a very precise yet terrible tip with her signature on the receipt. She had no intention of being rude; she was just frugal.
I watched my father drive an extra 20 minutes to get gas at Costco to save 10 cents a gallon. Because it was a “better deal.”
These behaviors might make sense for people who really need to watch what they spend, but this wasn’t the case for them. They had plenty. It was just an excitement around saving. The thrill of getting a discount even if you don’t need one. And also, in my perspective, a deep rooted sense of what I call frugality mentality.
Frugality Mentality is similar to scarcity mentality (seeing one’s life and/or money situation through a lens of lack rather than abundance… whether or not that mindset resembles reality) yet, in frugality mentality, people are saving money not out of real need or even fear necessarily. But just for the sake of saving. There is a subconscious hoarding for the future.
And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with it either. Because of my grandmother’s frivolous saving, she was able to leave lots of these savings behind for her family, including me! And my Dad was able to get where he is now, living with the financial freedom he worked so hard for and, of course, sharing that with his fortunate family. I feel extremely grateful for the mentality in how it has given my uncountable possibilities for my life.
Yet, there is a way that this type of mindset keeps this money mostly within the generational lines. It’s a weird irony where it’s like extreme generosity, yet it’s for later. And that’s where my frugality mentality got going.
It’s the forever feeling that I need to save all my money and spend as little as possible. Because it’s for later… But when later comes, will I know how to spend money freely? Will it be too late to unlearn?
It is a generational mental phenomena that I grew into
…and have been working the last decade to grow out of.
Fast forward to March 2021 on the Southern Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. We’ve been in quarantine for over a year, and I’ve finally escaped to my favorite little pueblo to focus on my Spanish, growing my online business, writing my book and living on the beach.
I’ve happily learned to ride a motor scooter and have rented one for three weeks.
One Friday night, around the end of week two, I’m sleepily walking up the hill from my beachside apartment to head to a late night Cabaret party with a new lover. We had finally motivated ourselves to go, mostly out of the promise of free food for our hungry bellies, but it was already 10 PM.
As we reach the top of the large hill to jump on my motorbike, we realize something is missing. The bike! Shit.
I’m in shock and disbelief racking my mind for what could have happened. Where’s my bike?! It would have been one thing if it were just mine, but it was a rental! Talk about guilt complex 101…
So I called Salomón, the man who rented me the bike. He answered sleepily as I blurted out the bad news. Of course he was angry and also shocked. He said this had never happened in his five years of renting bikes. Was I some sort of a magician or something? Why my bike?
He met us on the top of the hill minutes later. He wanted my passport so he’d have a guarantee that I wouldn’t leave without dealing with this. He also told me I’d have to buy him a new bike. Probably for about $23,000 MX pesos (equivalent to about $1150 USD).
I told him he couldn’t ask for that after the fact. If he wanted a guarantee and for me to cover the expense, that’s something he has to tell me upfront.
Why should I give him all the power in the situation when it wasn’t my fault? The night I had rented the bike, he hadn’t asked me to sign anything, nor told me where or where not to park the bike, which he was now blaming me for doing wrong.
I was starting to feel really cornered, helpless and hangry. Genaro, my new lover was sweetly trying to help, but he was being shut down quickly by Salomón. Salomón was not a bad guy, nor was he trying to stiff me, but he was obviously not trying to let me get out of this without paying for it.
The two options I had were:
1. Hand over my passport and then be free to finally go feed my hungry belly and we could deal with the logistics the next day
2. Hop on his bike with him and go file a police report, which he said may take hours and also will likely have zero impact
This was a lose/lose in my eyes.
But finally, after at least half an hour of defensive ego competition all in Spanish, I relinquished,
“Fine, I’ll give you my passport!”
I turned around in a huff like a grounded teenager and started to head down the hill for my passport. I didn’t know what else to do.
He followed down on his bike and as we reached the bottom, something had relaxed in him.
He said, “ If you want, since you are trusting me with your passport, I’ll give you another bike to use in the meantime as an offering from me.”
“Wow,” I breathed. “That would be nice.”
I had thought I’d never be able to touch another scooter from his shop again.
After finally handing my precious passport over to him, giving what seemed to be all of my power with it, there was another subtle and surprising feeling that arose… a dull but potent flash of excitement.
The next five days, I asked around for lots of different opinions on the issue. I tried to get a multi-cultural perspective on the matter because I knew I was seeing it from my United States lens. Where I come from, if I didn’t sign anything, I have no reason to take responsibility. But at this little moto shop shared with a coconut and ice cream stand, I knew things worked a little differently.
My Canadian and US friends said I owed him nothing. Some Mexican friends said they figured I would have to pay for all of it, others said I should pay half, others said none. One said I needed to speak from my heart and tell him I would need help paying because I couldn’t; I didn’t have the money. There wasn’t really a consensus, so I knew I’d need to do some soul searching.
What felt right to me?
After receiving way too much input, and also a sleepless call from my worried Dad where he advised me not to go into any enclosed spaces or get into any cars with this man, I went over to the shop, bought a coconut and awaited my truth.
He arrived about 20 minutes later in a sleeveless T and hopped up to sit on the wall next to me. He greeted me warmly as I took another sip of my coconut and felt the hot coastal sun beating down on my back.
He jumped right into what he had been thinking. His tone was way more jovial than it had been the other night. He had also taken time to do some soul searching and ask his community.
The proposal was that I search for another motorbike online or buy one from a friend who is leaving. This way I could maybe find one for a way better deal. If I paid him without finding a bike on my own, he had lowered his ask to $18,000 MX pesos equivalent to about $900 USD. I proposed my heart-centered offer of splitting the cost, so about $10,000 MX pesos each since it was neither of our faults.
He said he couldn’t do it.
I thought about what my friend had said, “tell him you can’t.” And for maybe the first time in my life, this felt utterly wrong in my body.
Because I could!
That twinge of excitement arose back in my body, and I let it expand more fully this time.
I realized that there was a part of me that wanted to have to pay lots of money for this new motorbike. Why? Because I could! Suddenly the idea of getting a discount sounded like I’d be cutting myself short of this joy and excitement of my financial privilege.
I told him I would see what I could find.
A few days later, we were in his pick-up truck both feeling agitated at the situation and at life. My doubts had come back up about how it wasn’t my fault so I shouldn’t have to be paying this. My frugality mindset was back in full swing. We made some small talk in the car as I tried to swindle him down again, knowing deep down it was already too late. We were driving over an hour away to another town to purchase a used moto bike my Latina mother (long story) had found on Facebook Marketplace for $13,000 MX pesos. And I already had all the cash in my fanny pack.
We continued to be frustrated and angsty in the car together until something shifted. He asked what I did for a living and I told him I both teach Spanish and am a Sex and Relationship Coach. His face lit up.
“Really?” He asked, “Maybe you can help me. My wife and I are filing for a divorce soon and I’ve been so depressed and anxious about it for the past six months”
“Wow,” I thought, “He’s never gotten a motorbike stolen in all his five years, and I’m the only one who gets it stolen, so we could be in this car together and I can help him with his relationship? I don’t know about all this.”
Because I was still in my frugality mindset, I joked that, “Well, if you want a session, that’ll be at least $1000 MX pesos towards the bike.” He laughed, and we continued to talk a little bit about his situation, but I didn’t have the energy to really give it my all. I mostly just listened and gave him some hints of validation. I wasn’t going to give any more to this guy!
Then once again, as if this was supposed to be a big life shifting moment or something, another lightbulb clicked.
I remembered the practice of Existential Kink by Carolyn Elliot that I had been super excited about for the past few months. The premise is that everything that is happening in our lives, no matter how shitty, is a manifestation of some part of us that is deriving a lot of pleasure from it.
I leaned into this exploration.
What could be pleasing about this situation?
At first, all I could feel was the frustration and “poor me” attitude… everyone is benefiting off of me and what am I getting? Nothing… then suddenly there was more.
I felt the strange and kinky satisfaction and slight arousal of the fact that here I was, white and privileged, being driven to another coastal city with $13,000 MX pesos ($650 USD) stacked loose in my fanny pack by a middle aged Mexican man who is going to get a new (used) motorbike for his little thriving business.
The excitement from before once again started to rise, and my full abundance began to pour in while I felt the kink and twisted pleasure from this very strange life experience.
“…And he needs my help with his relationship! And I’ve been wanting to practice giving coaching sessions in Spanish! What a gift!” I internally exclaimed.
We arrived at the place and were greeted with loud reggaeton music (my favorite) at this little bar where we were supposed to meet the seller in another 20 minutes. We had time to spare, so Salomón asked if I wanted a drink. We both ordered non-alcoholic beverages and little dishes of bar food; I got cheese fingers, he got hot wings.
The salesman arrived soon after, and his young son swiftly went to get the bike to show us. I awaited nervously sipping my limonada, feeling the kink of being this young white girl who was going to be paying for the purchase of this bike. We were invited inside to talk logistics and I met most of the extended family of this man with the bike. They were kind, yet not overly, because they were in business mode.
I again realized the strangeness of this experience I was having. Meeting a random coastal Mexican family sipping a limonada and carrying so much of my white American wealth in my fanny pack.
Salomón and I tried one last time for a discount to get him down to $12,000 MX and he declined. My excitement escalated knowing that I happily didn’t even want that discount anyway.
We made the deal, they signed the papers, and we went back to celebrate the termination of this experience with our cheese fingers and hot wings. Salomón even paid for our meals at the end.
But there was one last twist. Salomón waited until then to inform me that this past week, someone had stolen his booklet where he kept everybody’s licenses that we traded in to rent the bikes. Therefore, my Colorado license was now gone. Luckily, he had put my passport in another place and it was safe.
A strange feeling of relief washed over me because it felt like now we were even. It was no one’s fault that something of his got stolen from me and something of mine got stolen from him. I mean, what were the freaking odds of all this anyway?
You know when things get so extra that you’re just not surprised by anything anymore? That’s where we were at this point of the story.
I had already been working on some sort of exchange with him while we were in the car about potentially being able to use the bike in exchange for this buy, and he had agreed to two weeks of me using the motorbike he had already been letting me use. After the license thing, he said he could offer three.
We got back in the car, and I felt the urge to tell him that in all this strangeness, I felt like maybe I’m supposed to help him with his relationship. He agreed that there was a strange sort of synchronicity, and he began opening up. We spent the better part of the hour talking through it and me using my mad skillz ;) to help him get to the bottom of what he really desired. By the end of the car ride, he had gotten some clarity and knew what his next steps were. Success!
We got back to our little coastal pueblo and decided to sign a contract for our agreements moving forward. He told me that if I wanted to learn to ride a semi automatic instead of a scooter, I could rent that for three whole months free of charge over the course of the next few years that I travel back there.
Dang, not too shabby.
I scribbled out the details on the back of some other piece of paper and we both signed. Things seemed to be working out quite fairly after all.
I tucked our contract into my fanny pack, and said goodbye to Salomón and his workers. I didn’t totally know what the outcome of all of this would be, but I felt a smile plaster over my face knowing it would be something.
It had been something.
During the few weeks after being back stateside, I immediately noticed a huge shift in my relationship to spending money. Each time I considered not making a purchase with money that I already had and could use for that purchase, I felt a sense of loss. If I was on a checkout page and my calculated savings started getting too high, I also felt that pang of disappointment. I wanted to give my money. I wanted to feel it.
The kink of saving money had shifted into a kink of spending money on things I actually needed. Instead of being so deeply immersed in the shame of my privilege around having money, I had moved into a new mentality of abundance and choice of where I can put this money.
Yet it feels different than charity. It feels like admitting to the inequalities and injustices of this world and no longer continuing to pretend there is equality in my situation and someone else’s situation. We all work hard, but being white and from the United States puts me at a very unequal advantage for how my life was set up for me to thrive financially. Not to mention being able to travel to other countries for soul-searching journeys.
So it’s not the cure to world hunger and it’s not a clear cut model of how to solve the money injustices in the world, but it is an idea to work with. And it can be fun. I don’t know exactly what will come next, but I do know that getting my motor scooter robbed in Mexico substantially shifted my relationship with my money issues. :)
Lindsey Aronson is a Sex and Relationship Coach with her business called Follow Your Desire, LLC. Check out her website and sign up for email updates at www.lindseyaronson.com