From time to time an old buddy of mine and I reminisce about our trips together. My friend’s nickname is St. Lou Sue or for short, Sue Lou. We met when we were in our twenties and worked for a travel agency in Missouri. Travel agencies were offered fam-trips (familiarization trips) by hotels, cruise lines, tour companies, etc. These were mostly gratis and gave the agents an opportunity to view properties for potential vacationers. So we took advantage of an all-inclusive package sponsored by a beautiful new hotel in Cancun. Our flight connection time in Houston was close and our arrival there was late. Pressed for time, of course I was pulled out of line. The security people wanted to peer closely into my carry-on. An x-ray of electric hair-curlers, in those days, would do more than raise eyebrows.
Evidently, I didn’t get the bag latched tightly as I was running for our connection. It popped open and up-chucked its entire contents. Not only did curlers roll everywhere, but a can of deodorant, hair spray, setting-gel, tampons; anything that could roll did, including Sue Lou’s eyes. We scrambled in every direction to retrieve all the items and just barely made it to the gate on time.
Awaiting us was a glorious ocean view room on the 4th floor of the pristine hotel. We couldn’t wait to don our swimsuits and hit the beach. Imprudently, I rushed into the water wearing my brand new prescription sunglasses. It only took jumping one larger than life-size wave before they promptly became the property of Neptune.
We spent several hours baking under the Cancun sun. Sue Lou kept saying, “I’m tellin’ ya, Stroup, we’re gonna be sorry.” But did I listen? Instead, I insisted we stay out in order to achieve a ‘glorious tan.’ Having not used any sun block on our virgin skin, (Duh) we almost had to crawl back to our room. Our ankles had started to swell from over-exposure.
Thinking a bite to eat might make us feel better we ordered big burgers from room service. But by the time they arrived the sun poisoning had made us too ill to swallow. No rest for the wicked, either. We couldn’t turn over without our blistered skin waking us up. About 3:00 a.m. we were ready to welcome death ~ the AC in the room had quit working! St. Lou Sue opened the sliding glass door to the beach to allow the ocean breeze in. Exhausted, we half-way dozed off only to awake a couple of hours later coated with a thin layer of sand and salt which had adhered to our sweaty bodies. That ocean breeze had been a doozie. Showering to remove the grit was sheer torture.
The front desk staff accommodated us with a new room and based on our appearance threw in a round-trip pity-pass to the city and some aloe. (Obviously, we wouldn’t be spending any time on the beach for a while.) It was in one of the outdoor shops we visited where a salesman got waaay too frisky. I was haggling with him over his price on a T-shirt when he unceremoniously reached out and pinched my boob! Pahleeze!!!! Sue Lou found this very entertaining but was quick to take a few steps back. In total disbelief I didn’t know whether to slap him or just bolt. So we both bolted. That rude and unnecessary gesture cost him a sale but I doubt that he cared. Ticked me off, though, not just the tweak, but I really wanted that shirt.
The next evening we wandered down the street to another hotel on the beach. There was a band playing outside on a huge veranda sheltered by a gazebo covered in flowers. And the long tables with fancy linens and scrumptious looking Mexican cuisine beckoned to us. We figured it was a spread the hotel offered to its guests. (Remember, we were in our twenties and foolish to a fault.) So we got in line and helped ourselves to a splendid meal, thinking no one would know we weren’t staying at this particular hotel. But we were noticed and politely asked if we were guests of the bride or the groom! A lot of stuttering and stammering and apologizing followed. I’m certain our fac
es turned bright red but being burned to a crisp hid that aspect of our total embarrassment.
Playing it safe, the following day we opted for a long stroll in the opposite direction and found ourselves in a very different neighborhood. We’d wandered away from the expensive hotels and beautiful beaches and onto “the other side of the tracks.” Suddenly, the paved street became a gravel road overrun with goats and chickens. There was a shabby looking inn with a sign out front saying “Free Cock Fight.” Since we’d never seen such a thing and since it was “Free” what the heck?! We took a seat on some stone steps out back near a small dirt arena. And the arena was surrounded by a throng of shouting people. They all had money clenched in their fists and apparently were placing bets. Sure enough, roosters were brought in and a fowl fight scene ensued. Feathers flew and there was blood shed. This was the real deal!!! I am clueless as to what we thought we were going to witness but we absolutely got more than we bargained for. Couldn’t wait to get out of there!
It was probably a blessing that we left the next day. Our not so ‘glorious tans’ had already started to peel and we’d certainly made some memories. All things considered, we did have a fine time; even picked up a little Spanish and certainly learned quite a bit about Mexican culture and customs.
However, over the course of the next 35 years, reiterating this kind of detail to my husband is what makes him grimace when I say, “Guess what, Hon? St. Lou Sue and I are planning another trip.”
Originally published in the June 2010 edition of The Cross Timbers Gazette.