What I Learned from Being Abandoned in Mexico City
[MZM's latest group writing project concerns lessons learned from travel.]
Back in the late 80's I did a lot of business travel, usually on short notice. One such trip took me to Mexico City. I arrived around noon, and was picked up by a local colleague, who took me to my hotel to freshen up before a 4:00 meeting and then dinner. I relaxed a bit, and reviewed my work for the next day. At 4:30 my colleagues called to say they were running a bit late. At 5:00 they called to say they'd be over at 6:00. At 6:30 they called and said that the meeting was off, but that we'd meet for dinner at 8:00. When the phone rang at 7:30, guess what? Yep. Dinner was canceled due to protracted meetings that would go on very late.
So there I was in a unfamiliar foreign city, having sat by myself in the hotel for several hours, in an ever-increasing state of agitation. Normally I'd just resign myself to room service in this situation, but I needed to get out for a bit. I recalled my boss (who had traveled extensively) saying that one of the best meals he'd ever eaten was at a place called La Fonda del Recuerdo. Since my Mexican hosts were paying for my expenses, I figured I'd give it a try. I asked the concierge for the address, and she suggested I take a taxi. No problem. My now-rusty high school Spanish could get me through that part. The ride was longer than I expected, and before long it didn't feel like I was in happy-fun-tourist-land anymore. I was beginning to wonder if the taxi driver was taking me for a joy ride, and thinking this might not have been such a good idea.
Eventually, the driver dropped me off in front of the restaurant, and I walked in and asked for a table for one. The maitre d' greeted me warmly and showed me to a table. My waiter didn't speak english, but having lived in Texas for a few years, I knew how to say "Cerveza, por favor" to get things rolling. The restaurant was a bustling place, with families and business people, all having a great time. There were strolling bands, and people happily sang along with them. When it was time to order, the maitre d' returned to help me navigate the menu (not available in Gringo-friendly form). He suggested that if I was hungry I should try the Veracruz Sampler or some such thing. I thought that sounded good.
I didn't realize I was ordering dinner for four. The waiter brought out a platter the size of a small picnic table loaded with what had to be three pounds of meat (carne asada, pork, and chicken mole) and a full set of sides! I did my best, but after an hour there was still a considerable portion of food left and I wanted to be able to walk out of the restaurant.
When the waiter brought the bill and I did the conversion in my head, the total was under $15! I tipped 30% and slipped the maitre d' several pesos, too. He hailed me a taxi, and I returned to the hotel a much happier man than the one who had left there a few hours before.
So what did I learn from this story? That sometimes bitter disappointment can be the seed for great adventure and enjoyment - if we're bold and/or smart enough to look past our initial expectations!
posted by Mike at 6:19 AM