closer . . .
We Fly \ We Meet the Concierge
Dear Blanca,

Next to Carole on the flight over was a large man whose volume seemed slightly more than the seat designed to contain him. Well, to be a bit more blunt: his girth spilled into Carole’s personal airspace. I realize this may not be within your purview. Still, I want you to know the crowded mindset that we’re bringing to the Occidental.

Oh, and he spoke—mostly too loudly—on what may or may not have been actual cell phone calls. That was at the airport in Charlotte, where the man at the gate took one look at Carole’s French passport and said, “You have to open to the picture page,” as he looked away, not to other official airport business, just away from someone carrying a French passport.

You have to open to the picture page.

We bring such mantras to your resort.

On the flight to Cancun’s airport, our flight attendant was friendly in a fairly frightening way. First, he told me I couldn’t keep Max in the papoose during takeoff or landing, and when Carole asked why he started talking about the odds of child vs. adult survival in the event of a crash. Then he told us about seeing a tarantula
yay-big—here he made an oval wide as a manhole cover—in a parking lot in Xcaret. And he made much of spotting this tarantula in a common parking lot—made it sound, really, like a Kmart parking lot in Peoria—and not in the exotic, mysterious jungle, where tarantulas belong.

And oh, he said, there are
scorpions.

Then, as he started to slouch down the aisle to catch up to the drink cart, his lips mysteriously managed to arc back to my ear, and they stage-whispered, “But what’s worst are the
mosquitoes.”

I realize USAir flight attendants are probably not within your sphere of influence. Still, maybe your people could speak to their people and ask them to tone down the fear-mongering. We think it might be better for business.
occidental grand xcaret spoon

Presentation of The Occidental Spoon
to Ms. Blanca Bertely, Assistant Manager
Occidental Grand Xcaret
1/22/2010

Dear Blanca,

Please do something about the Concierge situation. Ours made us feel very important by interrupting a meeting with another guest to introduce herself to us. Later, after she’d made us dinner reservations at two of your specialty restaurants, she tried to sell us on the idea of a 90-minute tour of your property for a time-share thing.

“You’d really be helping me out,” she said, with a smile that remains kind of creepy in my memory.

Frankly, I’ve not come all the way here to help out a Concierge. If she needs help, she should call Maintenance. Or a therapist.

(A few nights into our stay, our taxi driver, 27, will tell us he makes good money and lives in a four-bedroom house with his wife, a psychologist, and their two daughters and a dog, Paco, and a television set wide as one hand at the driver’s window and the other hand halfway into the passenger seat, and they’ve been to Xcaret Park seven times and Disneyland once. So maybe your Concierge could moonlight as a taxi driver. Or seek therapy from our taxi driver’s wife. Or go to Disneyland.)

Later, I flat-out lied to her, told her we were trying to buy a house in the south of France; all of our resources, besides this trip and our son’s education fund, were dedicated to the investment, and anyway we’re here to spend quality time together, which doesn’t include a time-share presentation. She wouldn’t take no for an answer; I wouldn’t give yes to her question. This is called a standoff; I feel like we’re playing the part of the Alamo.

Of course, she tried again yesterday with a faux change of subject, offering us two free tickets to Xcaret Park. I told her that I’d accept her generous offer with one condition: that free meant absolutely free, as in: she gives us two tickets, we go to the park, end of story.

She answered, with a smile that continues to creep me out, “But of course you must first go to breakfast and join a small presentation and tour of our Royal Club.” Which sounded a lot like her first offer. I refused.

To put this into perspective, Carole met a sweet, deflated couple from Canada (those Canadians are everywhere around here, melted Macintosh Toffee bars oozing like hot lava toward beach and buffet) who were duped into the time-share presentation by a nasty hustler who nabbed them at the airport; they got pressed through the presentation mill, from an offer of two weeks at $5,000 to two weeks at $4,000 to one week at $3,000 to one week at $2,000 (which you can readily arrange on Travelocity).

For their time, they were given two free tickets to Xcaret Park at half price. You read that correctly.