After a night of tossing and turning, we woke up to the sound of birds chirping on the verandah. It was too early and they were too damn loud. The lights off the Pacific shined brightly, lighting up the entire room. I tried several times to shoo the birds away, but it was too no avail. We were stuck with them. While I was still swinging pillows at the birds on the verandah, the clock-radio alarm went off, blaring horrendous opera music and flagrant shrieking through the speakers. My wife sat straight up in bed and screamed, “Why did you set the alarm? This is supposed to be a vacation!” I was totally innocent. In fact, I have yet to be able to successfully program a clock radio in a hotel room. I’ve tried on a few occasions, but it always fails. Because of this, my wife is unable to sleep the evening before a flight; she fears that the plane could leave without us. A more likely explanation for the alarm was that the maid was listening to the radio, and she forgot to switch the alarm setting off. In any case, I was fully awake and my nerves were jangled.

After a half hour of pacing, I convinced my wife to get up and go to breakfast. We left the room and walked through the tropical garden, across the bridge through the simulated jungle stream, past the children’s wading pool and waterfall, and to the tile-decorated outdoor restaurant. Upon arrival, the waitress poured on traditional Mexican hospitality, treating us like visiting royalty. She greeted us with a warm smile and asked “How did you rise?” I try to ignore these morning people until I have had at least three espressos, and even so, I am still not functioning until 10:30 or 11:00 am, and I dislike happy people in the early hours. She led us to a table on the sunny patio, overlooking the Pacific coast. The fishing yachts were coming in to pick up the marlin fisherman who had come to try their luck. As a courtesy, the waitress bowed and brought us hot coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Her politeness was contagious. Soon we noticed that everyone in the hotel, guests included, was bowing and covering their hearts as they said hello to one another, conveying greeting came from the bottom of their hearts. This place was really warped!

I have to admit that the hotel staff was so darn polite that they made it looked natural. And, the effect that their hospitality has on upscale US tourism is astounding. The fatback tourists in floral imprint shirts became so enchanted by all of this bullshit that they actually forgot that this was a show for their consumption and were beginning to treat the hotel staff as if they were family. Well, maybe better than family, because they were living the fantasy that these people wanted to provide for their every need. At the heart of the matter, however, was a major financial transaction. Those greetings were bought and paid for like call girls. The tourists were getting fleeced by the minute and they wanted more.

Since the place was an all-inclusive, my wife and I avoided our recurring argument about the outrageous cost breakfast in hotels. The system worked like an HMO: meat, soup and rice were covered, and booze and espressos were out of pocket expenses. At breakfast, I ordered an assortment of sweet rolls and muffins with strong black coffee; my wife ordered fresh-sliced papaya covered with homemade yogurt, adorned with a sprinkle of roasted coconut and raisins. I wolfed down the cinnamon rolls and hunkered down to read my book. Soon after I settled in, a herd of tourists arrived from Los Angeles.

After wandering around for several minutes, they finally decided on a table. It was someone’s extended family. They all decided to have breakfast together and had dressed for the occasion. The men were dressed in golf attire, and the women, who still thought they had “it,” were wearing sun dresses that revealed way too much cleavage. This was a group in search of serious alcohol and power drinking began early with mimosas and Bloody Marys. By noon, the men in the group would move on to cold beer, and by evening, they would drink themselves into a stupor with bourbon. The women, on the other hand, were planning to spend the day in the spa and then head out for shopping. The common denominator soon arrived: an elderly couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

I’m rarely comfortable speaking with strangers; I figure that I will never see them again, so why bother getting to know them. Also, in places like this, I have more in common with the cooks and kitchen staff anyway. This, however, never stops my wife; she strikes up a conversation with anyone. Sometimes she even stays in touch with them. I remember being trapped in an elevator in Chicago with British guy for two hours. Now, he’s on our Christmas card list. My wife offered a few kind words and a smile to the happy couple, and the next thing you know, the old woman joined us at our table, which didn’t seem to bother her family at all. As it turns out, she had grown up on the Gold Coast in Chicago, married a movie producer from Los Angeles, and had lived much of her life in California. Her husband had an Errol Flynn mustache and a suave air to him that reeked of drama and intrigue, involving mafia hit men and liaisons with Russian spies.

To be continued….

Cross-posted at My Ongoing Stuggle with Misanthropy:

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About the Author

Jimmy Gabacho

Gabacho– according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy– is derived from an old Provençal word “gavach,” meaning a person from the foothills of the Pyrenees who spoke incorrectly. These days, it means “outsider,” somebody who just doesn’t fit in.

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