From: "Roberta Jenkins" Date: Sat, 05 Jan 2002 14:58:24 -0700 Subject: Ad Absurdium I should have known what kind of a day was shaping up when Shane and I emmerged from our stroll along the beach behind the gates of the only abandoned hotel in all of Cancun. Should have known, looking around at the refuse of empty coconut husks, chipped, sad statues, and empty fountains, that something unusual was setting itself up. Should have known, jumping the tall, cement wall under the very nose of the policeman sleeping in his cruiser, that this would be a day filled with absurdity, unlike any other day in my entire life. The rest should not have surprised me. Should not have made my head spin frantically round like the earth itself had fallen off its axis and was now plunging out of control through a bizarre space devoid of any connection to my sane and rational world of comfort. Should have, but didn't. Welcome to the twilight zone, baby. Shane and I are quite late returning to our hotel, after our escapade along the beach, leaving just enough time for a hurried shower before tossing all our things roughly into our packs and hailing the nearest cab for the trip to the airport. Elaine is ready and waiting. We say good-bye to the nice staff, pile in, and throw Shane out at a bus stop down the road where he can make his own way to the main bus station and on to a mystery destination without us. It is time to part ways, rushed and surreal. I look out the back window of the speeding car to watch his figure shrink into the distance, feeling as if we are abandoning him. Little do I know that in just a few hours, this feeling will return, in reverse. For now, we are leaving Mexico behind us. I have said my good-byes, am ready to go. The pleasant, chatty driver lets us out at the second terminal, very near where we had disembarked only a week before. In the way of memory, it feels like much more time has passed right under my nose, that lifetimes had been lived under the hot, tropical sun. Lifetimes more will pass again before this airport gets us anywhere useful. But this too is unknown to me as I thank the man, accept his wellwishes, step inside the heavily air conditioned hall. It does not take Elaine and I long to note the absence of a flight gate marker for Canada 3000. Much longer to accept the small, neatly posted sign in the window, pointed out to us by a helpful but sympathetically puzzled security guard in the terminal: "We regret to inform you that as of November 9, 2001, Canada 3000 has ceased all operations. Please contact your travel agent to make alternate arrangements to your destination." We try the emergency embassy telephone number listed below the words, and are stunned to hear the recording, announcing that they are closed for the long weekend and will re-open on Tuesday. We count our combined money forlornly, 52 pesos (about $8 between us), not even enough to catch a cab back to town. With no money and no prospects we each give in to that universal rescue instinct, calling our mothers - mine in Canada and hers in Brazil - for help. Which of course is disappointingly limited at best from this great distance. We are on our own, with a hurried and ill-considered plan taking shape. Following the same instinct for comfort, we set off at a frantic pace to the bus station, promising the taxi driver that we will pay him when we get there and find our friend. I pray fervently, hastily, desperately, the whole way, "please God, if you never ever answer another one of my prayers again ever in my whole life, please, please, please let Shane still be at that bus station..." over and over and over again. Well over an hour has ellapsed since we let him off at that lonely corner. It feels like days. We come barrelling up to the station, grab our bags and tear inside. I am certain he will be there. 1, 2, 3 passes through the narrow terminal confirm the unbelievable - that he is not. We ask each of the ticket agents if they have seen him, describing the sun-kissed gringo that will be easy to pick out of this darkly featured crowd, but none recall him. Our plan comes to a breathtakingly abrubt, skidding halt. We are on our own. Penniless. Uncertain. And then reality kicks in and we gather our nerves and wits about us and begin preparations for a solution. We are adults. Capable. Confident (isn't it apparent?). I take a deep, steadying breath, turn around. The ticket agents let out a collective whoop as I shriek and race across the floor to engulf Shane in a relieved bearhug, babbling out the whole confused story in one breathless, speedy jumble. He expertly manouevers his messy paper plate of taquitos out of reach of my twisted braids and frantic features, but otherwise makes no indication of the absurdity of it all. He seems remarkably unsurprised to see me again, saying only "this'll be a great chapter in that book of yours..." 7 minutes later he is boarding his bus to Chetumal, having given us a fistfull of cash and another good-bye hug. His ticket is non-transferable. Non-refundable. He asks casually if we want to go with him. Wishes us luck from the guarded gate, an amused smirk playing across his tanned features. The bus shrinks into the distance and we are alone again. Reason and rationality start to seep in and wrestle control from the panic and disbelief. It begins to dawn on me that there are many worse places to be stranded than Cancun, Mexico. Most people are dying to get in here, not begging to leave. I wish I were on my way home, but I am not. So we head for the next best thing - back to our quiet hotel on the lagoon. When they check us back into the same room, it has not even been cleaned yet - it is our sand on the shower floor, our roses in a chipped glass next to the mirror, our empty sun-block bottle in the sink. It is so familiar that I want to cry. Instead I re-open my pack and slip into something more suitable for a tropical afternoon than wool socks and heavy jeans. We have called the bank, re-evaluated our money situation, and decide to enjoy some good food and a nice afternoon. We are supposed to keep calling the airline for more information - they think they may be able to fly us out the next afternoon. Keep calling. We go out for food. I take my journal out, 4 hours after I should have been in the air, to sit beside the pool. The lights of the hoteleria glow and reach across the lagoon, and there is a fine, sharp wind blowing gently across the bay. If there are any stars at all, then they are muted by the brilliance around me. It's barely early evening, yet I feel like this day has gone on forever. Elaine is already sound asleep in our room above, and I am on my own to confirm our return travel. And suddenly there is a sleek and sexy Londoner sitting beside me, Richard, complimenting me on my exquisitely calm karma, which he says surprises him since he also has the sense that things have not gone well for me today. If the universe were not already compeletely mad, this would seem a whole lot more strange than it does. Instead, we pass the hours in quiet conversation together, Richard and I. About cosmic energies and our lives in the real world. He stands to go, tears glistening in his rich, brown eyes, and tells me that what I see is just a small part of a much bigger book of life. "You have the rest," he says, "you have the rest." Perplexed and amused and strangely comforted, I return to the payphones to check on the arrangements I have set into place a million miles away. Although there are phones every ten feet, most of them do not work, and I am soon far from the hotel. Impatient. I am elated to finally find one that works, then outraged when it cuts out half way through the automated messages. I groan and shake the receiver in frustration, only to startle a narrow lizard out of his hiding place in the handset. He glares balefully at me over his lime shoulder as he slither down the cord and into a hidden nest in the main box. There is nothing to do but laugh at the continuing absurdity of it all. And make my way back onto the hotel bar, perched outdoors beside the lagoon, for an icy fanta and a deep sigh. By this point I should definitely know better than to be so surprised. And yet the smallish crocodile waddling up the boardwalk beside us for a dip in the frigid but clean waters of the hotel pool surprises me very much. The bartender laughs and says I must have had quite a day indeed to pay so little attention to something so strange. Then he laughs again when I respond to him in halting but accurate Spanish, to discover that I am not as he and the rest of the hotel staff have suspected, dumb. We spend almost an hour there, crocodile swimming merrily alongside us, talking only in his language. It is not rocket science that we are discussing, and yet it is deeply satisfying to know that I can communicate on my own with people. Tonight is the night that I am reminded how good it sometimes feels to be on your own. How strong and capable and basically independent I (usually) am. How lucky I am to be here. Tonight is a whole different kind of experience (one which I secretly suspect confirms that God is playing a gigantic prank on me, which Elaine is conveniently sleeping through and therefore no witness of), and perhaps exactly the kind of experience I need before going home.