Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bat Demo

Mexico update numero dos.

In update numero uno, we discussed some of the major cultural differences between Mexico and Los Estados Unidos. Now that we’re back on U.S. soil and off the ridiculously slow, and possibly bugged, hotel Wi-Fi, I feel safer about bringing you the second update. As it turns out, wild drivers and El Hombre de Viagra and his burro smuggling operation were not the only parts of our Mexican experience that differed from our regular life.

Another change was the relative security we experienced. One morning after breakfast we came back to our hotel room to find the door wide open, with no maid or maid cart in sight. While none of our possessions were missing, we were understandably concerned. Thankfully, our Mexican hotel security team was all over the problem.

The jefe de seguridad plugged in the electronic scanner to our door lock, downloaded the entry and exit log, informed me that he needed to go back to the security office to print it out, and promptly disappeared. I guess he must have had a paper jam or needed to change the ink cartridge, because a mere five hours later, another hotel security professional showed me the handy printout which informed me that I was the last one in or out of the room, so it was probably all my fault.

Hmm… seems legit. I have never ever left a door unlocked and open in my entire life, so Mexico seems like the place I’d start. Thanks for the super-realistic and timely report, fellas!

If we had any mild security concerns inside our hotel, thankfully they quickly escalated when we went out walking in town. To prove that the neighborhoods are safe, Mexico conveniently displays their militarized police forces for you to inspect. Every other police vehicle was a pickup truck with five or six men dressed like a commando strike force, complete with face masks and M-16’s, standing up in the back, rifles ready for action.

We were impressed with the show of force, which even included an armored truck with a M-60 mounted on a swiveling turret. The locals, however, seemed to display less reverent awe than we did. We got that impression when we watched the ice cream man cut in front of the armored truck and proceed to ignore the surprisingly whiny honking from the driver of the three-axle, heavily-armed, bulletproof vehicle. It was almost as if the ice cream man knew the police budget didn’t include bullets for the machine gun.

Security differences aside, our hotel had some other striking differences to what you might experience in the United States. Mainly, that they were tearing it down while we were there. Sure, they tried to disguise the demolition as a “pardon our dust, we’re making more fun for you” kind of renovation, but there was no mistaking the fact that they were really dismantling the building.

That might have been because when we arrived, the entire right half of the hotel was a seven-story gaping hole, with tile and siding hanging loosely around the area that looked like it had just been hit with a scud missile.

As our week at hotel Fallujah progressed, more and more of the front of the hotel was broken apart by large pieces of heavy equipment and men with sledge hammers. By the time we left, I was getting legitimately concerned about the structural integrity of the building.

The first few mornings, we were nudged awake by the melodious tones of five or six back-up alarms on the heavy equipment all singing out their one-note songs in perfect non-harmony. One particularly exciting morning, we were jolted out of bed by what sounded like someone trying to enter our room through the wall directly above our heads, using a Sawzall. He must have just been cutting up the bed or the couch in the adjoining room, however, because he never actually came through the wall.

Need to get to the pool? Check with the crossing guard in the hard hat. He’ll keep you from getting run over by a front-end loader. The view from the pool? To the south, the beautiful ocean. To the north, heavy equipment plucking the palm trees out of the ground in the hotel’s large horseshoe-shaped interior garden area. What’s that pleasant banging and crackling sound? Just another overhead beam going up near the pool bar, with the welders fitting it into place. No wonder we got so pink out by the pool. Half of our “sunburns” were probably flash burns from the welders.

I’ve stayed at a number of U.S. hotels that were doing some construction onsite, but it never seemed to affect my stay the way it did in Mexico. For instance, in America I’ve never actually had to walk through the construction (or destruction) as part of the only route to my room. In Mexico, six times a day, we walked right through the ten guys removing the tiles from the walls in the main hall. The guys down on the ground with us had all been issued hard hats to protect them from the team on the scissor lift removing the tiles from twenty feet overhead. We protected our heads with beach towels.

My wife even helped out a little and removed a few souvenir tiles from one of the walls by hand. I’m not sure why the guys in hard hats were bothering with tools. The tiles seemed to be attached with the same stuff that sticks your new credit card to the paper.

Despite the fact that four out of our hotel’s five stars were being jackhammered apart, we actually had a relaxing and enjoyable time. Do you know why? Because our kids weren’t with us. Now, don’t get me wrong, we love our three boys to death. I’m just saying, never underestimate how much your children are sucking the very life out of you, that’s all. This vacation proves it. We slept in a construction/war zone, and it was honestly more relaxing than being at home with our boys.

In fairness to the boys, the food had a lot to do with our overall enjoyment of the vacation. Besides the fact that we never had to break up a single fight at any of our meals, the food was amazing. Which brings us to my favorite difference – besides El Hombre de Viagra, of course – between Mexico and America: the wildlife in the bars. Literally.

We saw plenty of wildlife (mostly iguana-looking lizards) on our walks to and from the restaurants, but the wildlife inside the restaurants was what caught my attention. Most places were more or less open-air. If they weren’t completely patio-style, they would certainly keep the doors open. On more than one occasion we saw birds flying in and out over our heads during meals, but it was the bat that made me sit up and take notice.

We were at a table down at the Fish and Grill, having some of the most amazing tacos on planet Earth and watching game two of the NBA finals on the big screens over the bar. We’d had a few birds fly in and out, but just after the start of the third quarter, Mexico upped the ante and added a bat. He (or she) wasn’t much bigger than a flying mouse (which if you think about it, that’s pretty much what it was), and it zipped in through the doors and zig-zagged all over the place up near the ceiling beams.

Then, it made the fatal mistake of wanting to check out the game, or order a tequila. I’m not sure which, and we’ll probably never know. I don’t know if all Mexican bat sonar is defective, if this particular bat was on his fourth or fifth bar visit that night and was drunk as a tiny flying skunk, or if ceiling fans create some kind of magnetic field and are confounding to all North American bats, but things didn’t go well.

He zig-zagged out of the rafters and headed straight for the bar. He made it under his own power just as far as the large ceiling fan above the bar, and then the ceiling fan took over the flight planning. He flew straight into the path of the rotating blades and got hit like a hanging curve ball, straight across the bar and smack into the middle of the big screen TV. He hit the flat screen with a thud and dropped straight down past the impressive selection of local tequilas to the floor behind the bar.

Well, that was a first for me. (And probably a first and a last for him.)

Two bartenders and a waiter behind the bar looked down at the unfortunate winged rodent, shrugged, and went about their business.

Nice one, Mexico.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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