Missteps in Mexico

First day out, I realize–and Dude also realizes–we have a Major Issue on our hands. Turns out the feeding thing his mom was worried about was a more extreme situation than we’d realized. (Those of you with teenagers apparently know this already, but I was going in blind.)

Dudelet (okay, let’s call him Derek) needed food, massive quantities, every hour on the hour. He was like a battery-operated toy that would run down and become comatose in the back seat of the rental car if we didn’t stop every few blocks and buy him a meal large enough to feed three families.

Dude (ok, let’s call him Scott) and I took turns, yelling at each other “It’s YOUR turn to feed it!”

Not only did we have the rigorous feeding schedule to attend to, we (the adults) lost his trust early on, shortly after our plane landed. It took a lot of calories to win back that trust.

See, Scott was driving and I was navigating. But it was about 7 a.m. and neither of us had had coffee. I was attempting to navigate us to a highway exit that would take us deeper into the interior of the Yucatan, and far, far, really far away from Cancun.

Instead, I got us lost in the slums of western Cancun. (Never one to pass up a teachable moment, I yelled to the backseat, “Derek, look out your window so you can see the poor people.” Checkmate, Auntie!)

We encountered a flooded intersection, and attempted to drive through it. Except under the water, there was a giant trough, in which we submerged the entire vehicle, sending a wave of water over the hood and roof and soaking some vital part that made the car run. The car made it out of the ditch on sheer momentum. And promptly died.

“Hi Derek! Good morning, and welcome to Mexico, with two utterly irresponsible adults who not only got lost within an hour of landing, we’ve now managed to destroy a rental car, all without even leaving Cancun.”

He put in his earbuds and sunk into a betrayed, horrified silence, eating the bag of sugary baked goods we’d snagged at a nearby bakery and desperately tossed into the backseat. He was surely pondering the miserable week that lay before him and the unfairness of a life about to be cut short by the two lamest grownups ever.

As we push started the car (at every stoplight) and limped it back to the rental agency, I pondered how, exactly, this might play back at the family farmstead. I couldn’t imagine it would go well, and swore on the spot that he would be so well fed for the rest of the trip, the memory of this first impression would be obliterated.

I watched as Scott proceeded to the rental desk, and announced in serviceable Spanish, “El coche esta muerto.” The woman at the desk let him go on in his broken Spanish, as did I. At that point, I’m thinking he’s explaining this fiasco as well as I could; he’s got this. In contrast, he’s thinking (he told me later), “WTF, the dumbass who actually speaks Spanish isn’t saying anything, so I’ll just do my best to fix this mess.” And the woman at the counter was thinking, “Wow, I’ll just let this guy go on for a while, then whip out my grammatically perfect English after he’s exhausted himself.” Which she did.

And that’s what happened on Day 1. Oh, and we fed the teenager. A lot.

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