When I worked at the Port of Progreso in the Rio Grande Valley south of Weslaco, Texas there was a large asphalt-paved parking lot directly behind the Customhouse, paved expressly for visitors that wanted to park and walk across the bridge connecting the United States and the town of Las Flores in Mexico. Most visitors to the Valley had heard some of the horror stories of driving in Mexico and many were reluctant to drive across—well, not just reluctant—they were afraid to drive across the bridge.
One afternoon while I was doing sidewalk duty—checking pedestrians returning from Mexico—an elderly gentleman, a winter tourist, approached me from the parking lot and asked me if I could go with him to check on his wife. He explained that his wife was sleepy and had stayed in the car while he walked across the bridge, and when he returned he could not awaken her. He said that he thought she might be dead.
I called for a relief at my position and asked another inspector to accompany me and the tourist to check on his wife. We found her sitting upright behind the wheel, but unmoving. The windows were down and there was a definite odor in the area. No, not the odor of death, but certain odors that are associated with death. When a person dies, any controls that the person may have had over body functions such as bowel movements and bladder contents are gone.
Normally when death occurs, the sphincter muscle relaxes and the contents of the lower bowel are expelled, and the bladder is emptied. The other inspector could not find a pulse at the carotid artery, and the woman’s skin already showed the evidences of death—no flow of blood and oxygen to the skin, especially to the upper extremities. When the elderly husband asked in a quavering voice if she was dead, the inspector replied that she was indeed dead. The husband seemed to be in control of his emotions, but I imagine that the full impact of his wife’s death had not yet struck him—the real emotions would probably come later.
We made the husband comfortable in the Customhouse and made the necessary phone calls to the proper authorities. I went off duty before they arrived, and I took my leave from the grieving husband with his thanks ringing in my ears.
This is only one brief instance of one busy day in the six years that I worked as a trainee and journeyman Customs inspector at the Port of Progreso, and there are many stories to follow, all true and I hope, interesting to a viewer—stay tuned!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!