Due to the fact that this was such a monumentally stinky brain fart, and one which I will never forget, I felt a quick Confessions of Stupidity post was warranted before getting into Part Two of Cancún…
Confession of Stupidity #1. I know I don’t need to make it. I have been told that sharing our unseen stumbles only illuminates and allows a focal point on our fragility in a world which demands perfection. But I’m not perfect. And neither are you. And if I can save one person from sharing this “ditzy moment” and perhaps suffering some brutal consequences, it is well worth the potential (but hopefully miniscule) judgment of and from grumpy people I probably don’t want in my life circle anyway.
For me, it is simply a humbling example of how the stress (good stress, but stress none the less) of embarking on such a strange new journey, coupled with lack of sleep, can lead to the absolute ridiculous. I will also add that I have never heard of anyone else doing this, so I cannot even remotely claim this is a lesson that will save many others the trouble; I am assuming 99% of the population would never do such a thing. But I did. Which means it is possible. I will also preface this confession (a feeble attempt to save face) by saying that I have navigated through many an unfamiliar airport in my life & have never done this before; but there was always someone either travelling with me, waiting for me at said airport, or I had a specific itinerary to follow. This was, authenchically, my first experience landing in a foreign country, without a working knowledge of the language, completely and utterly solo. Nothing was concrete – I was, and will continue to be, travelling liquid. Flexible. Open to the current before me. Which means I am bound to choke now and then. Right?
“OK, whatever!” you ask?
What did you do already!?”
Immediately upon exiting the plane and entering the Cancún International Airport, the only thing consuming my mind (other than utter gratitude that I had arrive safe & sound) was finding internet access so that I could contact my MOTHER and the CouchSurfing (CS) host to confirm my sleeping arrangements for the night. **See Note**
Taking a midnight flight didn’t leave much room for email communication en route, so I had no idea where to meet him or what time. This was flooding my mind with anxiety. Yes, I had a “Plan B”, but one of things most important to me is getting to know the people & authentic lifestyle of each area I visit; I’ve networked enough on CS that i felt it to be a relatively fresh yet safe way to experience this. Still, I had horrific tunnel vision, and instead of ‘baaaa-ing’ along nicely in an appropriate and warranted game of Follow-the-Leader-Navigation to Baggage Claim & Immigration… I made an unwavering beeline to smell out a coffee shop and find me some WiFi.
Yep. I was so focused on that one mission, like the White Rabbit, that it didn’t even occur to me that not getting my bags right away could lead to some very serious problems. Forget that my gear could have been jacked with ease, that’s a no-brainer. But considering the state of affairs our world is in, there is a definitive and serious condition known as Unattended Baggage. As in, my unclaimed recycled backpack could potentially be seen as a bomb threat. While I scurried around trying to find internet access, my gear was waiting downstairs. While I tried find a single person who spoke English to explain why there was no WiFi available (when the airport website clearly stated that there was free access available throughout the commons area) my gear remained “unattended” in the claiming area. While I found that I was required to enter a food establishment and purchase something to acquire the code to get online… you got it; my baggage remained “unattended & unclaimed” downstairs. It wasn’t until I had spent nearly 40 minutes and $14 on a single drink (don’t buy anything in the airport unless you want to spend 50 times more than the product is worth) that I jovially but obviously made my way downstairs to grab my stuff. I was approached immediately by a concerned looking guard asking “these is your bags, si señorita?” A light bulb went off and I realized immediately the gravity of what I had just done. I imagine I looked as guilty as a puppy, which just made wee-wee on my master’s bed, as I whispered “yes Sir, I am so very sorry”, and took the thankfully short walk of shame to gather my gear. I hope you realize how very lucky I was to have gotten off so easily, without anything more than a look of “gringa loca” – this mistake could have turned really ugly really fast. I could have been detained for hours, if not days, and rightfully so. I could have had all of my things stolen. Or sold in the gift shop?
I consider it a gentle miracle from God that my gear was safe, off to the side, being watched by a guard, who responded with aggravated albeit kind reproof rather than corporal punishment of any sort. The moral of the story? Get your ass through baggage claim before you do anything else, no matter how urgent it may seem to you at the moment. Period.
CS had been an extremely positive experience for me thus far, so this is in no way a slam on this awesome network or my host. The reality is that when you use CS, you may have times where you experience a last minute offer and unless you have a working GSM phone (which I didn’t at the time) you will be quite dependent upon web access to communicate. Once I was able to check in on CS, I found my host had graciously and more than adequately sent all of the information I needed, along with applicable advice on how to get around & wonderful suggestions of ways to spend my afternoon until our meeting time that evening. Thanks Paco!!