Carlos Slim is the 3rd-richest guy in the world. He owns the Mexican landline monopoly Telmex, which he bought from the Mexican govt in 1990, as the largest shareholder in a joint bid by France Télécom and Southwestern Bell. He now also owns the monopolistic mobile company Telcel. He also holds 18% of the New York Times company, but that’s another story.
So Carlos Slim has organized a philanthropy project to renovate El Centro, the historic center of the México City with all the cool old buildings that no one lives in because they’re sinking. The project has put about $600 million MXN into the Centro (about $46 million US).
Last night I was in El Centro, hearing Ripley and Wayne & Wax play at Salón Calavera. When I left the event around 3am, I tried to phone for a taxi but realized my Telcel balance was agotado. I bumbled around for about ten minutes trying to decide whether it was less lame to hail a taxi off the street or ask a stranger to call my taxi company for me. I was verging towards street taxi, literally walking towards the street that led home, when this dude I recognized from the show came up behind me at a street corner.
We started talking, and I shared with him my awkward choice. He strongly recommended against hailing, since I was alone, but his Telcel balance was spent, too, so nor could he help me order a taxi. We brainstormed a little bit before he came up with the bright idea of using a payphone (whoa!). We walked up to one, which of course given the landline monopoly, was a Telmex phone. It only accepted cards.
I tried walking up to another one, half a block away, but then the dude from the club was like, “Oh yeah, they changed all the payphones to card-only when they renovated.”
So we walked around a little bit more, all the while with me teetering back and forth about whether I should just hail a taxi off the street. Then we saw an open 7-11, and we suddenly knew what we had to do: Recharge our Telcel balances.
Thanks, Carlos, for controlling a good 30 minutes of my life.
Incidentally, my balance had run out in the first place without my knowledge, because there is no option to disable non-roaming data transmissions on iPhone and I accidentally opened Facebook with the touch screen. [Update: there is a patch available to disable data. Canadian video explains how.]