Tuesday, June 7, 2011
If you haven't done it already, reading
is a good idea.
A Honeymoon Story
The First Episode of a Longstanding Tradition in Unlucky Travels and How I Came to Appreciate American Soil
The Mexico Debacle: Part "Good Heaven's, Will it Ever End???"
In my sweetest, calmest voice I asked him why in the world I would have the car keys when in fact HE had been the one driving all week long and, after all, it had been him who’d locked the car up in the first place.
We searched our pockets. We emptied our backpack. We backtracked and looked in the locker room - crossing our fingers so that we would find them in a locker or sitting lazily on a bench, mocking us. No such luck. We went back to the car and looked inside. Of course they weren’t there. mr began to verbally retrace his steps - “I got out, I locked the car. I put the keys in my pocket. We went into the park and I just... forgot all about them...” - when I noticed that he was still wearing his swimming trunks. With wide eyes I politely pointed this out, then asked in an even calmer, sweeter voice than before if he’d been wearing his swimming trunks into the park. He replied that of course he had. A light was dawning on the situation, but he didn't quite grasp it yet. I reaffirmed: "You didn't bring any other clothes - you weren't wearing different shorts when you came in?" He was adamant: "No, no, I was ALWAYS wearing these..." the light broke in full force over both of us.
He’d put the keys in his pocket, naturally. In his swimming trunks. Then he had promptly gone snorkeling, swimming, tubing and even jumped off a cliff. There was only one place those keys could be.
I would like to take this moment to recap. We are in Mexico. We are short on cash. We have almost unwittingly fallen prey to a mobster running a car rental shop as a cover, but pay him just in time. We’ve been rained on, sunburned, stolen from, and completely stressed out. Now we have lost the keys TO OUR RENTAL CAR, most likely at the bottom of the ocean. We are again about to fall prey to a mobster who runs a car rental shop as a cover - with the most probable conclusion of ending up on the ocean floor along with our keys.
I refused to panic… We ran around the park, stopping at every information desk and bar along the way asking if anyone had turned in a set of lost keys. Unfortunately, in all my years of Spanish, we never really covered a situation quite like this, and I was kind of at a loss as to what to say... We generally stuck to the basics - so I could quite fluently ask them "donde esta el bano?" but was at an utter loss when it came to losing our keys. “Um, uh, we, er, nosotros perdimos our... um...keys (insert wild turning of the wrist here)... de la coche...” We received a lot of blank stares and a lot of shaking heads.
With increasing temor y la desesperación, we said many silent prayers while we made our way to the main help desk to begin our pleas yet again. As I combined my mad skills of universal sign language and Spanglish, the young man I was speaking with stopped me with a shake of his head and a smile. "I speak English!" He declared, with hardly an accent. Apparently he had lived in Kansas for 7 years. His name was Angel. No, I’m not kidding. Rather serendipitous, no?
He understood our situation perfectly and told us not to worry so much. “Every car rental place keeps duplicate keys!” He exclaimed. His easy smile put us at ease. He would rescue us. He would make everything right again. We would NOT swim with the fishes - at least not figuratively.
We gave him the name of the rental company we'd used in Cancun and Angel called the operator, speaking rapidly in a Spanish I couldn’t begin to understand. He finally handed me the phone, looking pleased and told me to speak with the owner of the company. The man I tried to talk to (but failed miserably) was indeed the owner of said car rental company, but in Playa del Carmen, not Cancun. He informed me (as well as he could) that there was no company in Cancun by that name.
This was the exact moment that mr and I remembered that the name of the company on the car and the name of the company on the paperwork we filled out did not match. It seemed fishy at the time, but we were so happy to get a car we ignored it. Jaime was now starting to look more and more like a member of the Mexican mafia. For all we knew, he’d stolen the car in the first place, his shop wasn’t really a rental shop and we had been carting around illegal substances hidden under a false floor in the trunk. We could now smell the rotting jail cell and feel the rats climbing over us as we withered away through the years... has anyone seen “Brokedown Palace” with Claire Danes? Enough said.
Of course we did have all of the information for the rental car company on our duplicate paperwork. In the glove box. INSIDE the car.
We had no way to find Jaime. And we didn’t really know if we wanted to find him at this point. Maybe it would be better to walk to the airport and sleep there... We didn’t even know his last name.
Angel assured us that he could help us. “I know a guy,” he told us. (Whatever THAT means.) And we stood there nervously, while Angel had a friend track Jaime down using the scant information we had: Jaime, Veloz Car Rental, Cancun... and literally watched a miracle happen. This friend not only found the rental company, he found Jaime’s CELL PHONE number.
mr got to tell Jaime our news.
“You lost the keys to the car?” Jaime asked in disbelief. mr replied in the affirmative.
“Ay, ay, ay!” Jaime exclaimed. “Where?”
“We don’t know.” mr stated the obvious.
“Maybe in the water?” Jaime concluded.
“Yes, probably.” mr hung his head.
“Ay, ay, ay!” Jaime exclaimed again.
He told us he would drive to the office and get the duplicate and that we should call him back in forty minutes.
It was 5:00 and by this time the park was closed and everyone was gone. The employees were starting to leave. So Angel took us to watch the soccer tournament that all the Xel-Ha employees were having in the back parking lot. After rooting for both teams (so as not to hurt feelings) and feeling severely out of place for forty minutes, Angel placed the long awaited phone call for us.
PS. We accidentally stole that blue and white towel from Xel-ha. Sorry, Xel-ha.
“Bad news.” Jaime told us when we reached him. “There’s no copy." I knew by mr's face that his heart had sunk just as mine had.
Jaime's voice perked up. "But I know a guy!” (Does everyone in Mexico know “a guy”?)
“I will come get you and give you a different car. We can go back to the park and make a copy of the key tomorrow.” As already mentioned, we were seriously low on cash. mr asked how much it would cost and Jaime assured us he would only charge us the cost of the key. Well, that was good news, at least.
We waited and waited. The soccer game ended. Before he left, Angel explained our situation to the security guards who were there around the clock so they wouldn’t think we were sneaky thieves and so they could help us if we needed it. We waited and waited some more. At 8:30 pm the guards called Jaime to see where he was. He said he had a little car trouble but would be there soon.
We waited longer. About twenty minutes later he called back. “Bad news.” He started. I was seriously beginning to dread those words.
“My tire… it exploded!”
Fortunately he was already at the front gate. The guards ran out to let him in. Unfortunately, he had no wrench. Fortunately, a park administrator who was working late DID have a wrench. Unfortunately, his spare tire didn’t fit because it was actually to a different car. FORTUNATELY, he was nothing if not resourceful. He ended up taking the tire off of our rental car and putting it on his car. (honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up.)
He hadn’t been able to find anyone to drive an extra car out to us, so instead, he drove us to our hotel and promised to be back in the morning to pick us up, take us to Xel-Ha to have the key made and then get us to the airport by 3:00 pm. As he left us at our cabana, we got the really bad news.
Car theft was a huge issue in Cancun. As such, all rental cars in the area were fitted with a microchip in their key fob so they couldn’t be stolen easily. The key we lost along with its fob would cost about $300 to replace.
Aside from being an exorbitantly high amount of money for a new key, this was bad news on another level entirely. You see, that was the EXACT amount of money we had left to our names - $300 and some change.
We spent a restless night trying to sleep, hoping that we’d be able to leave the country without needing knee replacements or doing time. Finding no other comfort, we finally knelt together and offered a simple prayer. “Please help us to be able to pay. Please help us to get home.”
*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!