Playing the tourist game in Mexico is not my best talent

By John Toth

The Bulletin


When Sharon and I visited Mexico many years ago, a little girl, who could not have been more than 5 years old, came to our table at a restaurant and started bugging us to buy her necklaces.


She was persistent. I wish I would have hired her on the spot to sell ads for us, but the timing was off by a few years.


I told Sharon in a very low voice: “It’s plastic.”


The girl looked up at me with those big brown eyes, like her feelings were really hurt.


“No, señor. No es plastic,” she said.


I felt like a jerk, pulled out $5 and gave it to her. Her face lit up. She stopped pushing the plastic beads and ran back to her parents. I was a sucker, and I probably was played, but so what? It was worth it to get some peace and quiet. And, I liked her smile more than her frown.


On our cruise excursion to Cozumel recently, a young woman tried to sell me a picture frame and a photo that was previously taken of Sharon and me in a restaurant.


I only took a certain amount of money with me and did not have enough to buy them. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. It was a good photo, and I liked the frame. But so be it. She walked off, dejected.


Back on the bus, Sharon happened to mention that she had a $20 bill. I also had $20, which was more than enough to buy the photo and frame. I got her money, ran off the bus and back to the restaurant. I bought both, and the young woman’s eyes lit up, just like the little girl’s so many years ago.


Was I played? Maybe. But so be it.


All this happened at lunch during an excursion while the Carnival Breeze cruise ship out of Galveston was docked at Cozumel. We bought an excursion package from Carnival that took us to one of the Mayan ruins, snorkeling, lunch and a tequila and chocolate tasting.


I don’t drink, so I didn’t buy any of the tequila they were trying to sell. I didn’t like the chocolates, so I didn’t buy that, either. The photo and frame were not such a big expense. It looked like it made someone’s day, as well as giving us another memory of our cruise (and good column material).


I had forgotten how tourists are gamed in Mexico, but I tried to keep it under control. I did buy a $10 Mayan pyramid fridge magnet that was probably worth $3-$4 at the most, but I don’t make the big mistakes. It’s hard to separate yours truly from his money.


It would not be fair to just say that tourists are gamed in Mexico. They are played in other countries I have visited.


In Budapest, Hungary, a few years back, I asked the hotel clerk where the nearest post office was because I wanted to mail a postcard home.


You are probably asking, why would you do that? Just turn video messaging on and talk to them. I could have done that, but a postcard has a different meaning. It shows that I went out of my way to think of the folks at home while having fun.


Except in this case, they never got the message. The clerk probably pocketed the $1.50 I gave him and chunked the postcard in the nearest trash can.


Then I got into a taxi to go from downtown to our hotel. By the time we got there, the meter read around $65. What?


I paid the driver after thinking bad thoughts about him and was glad that he did not expect a tip. He was satisfied with the money he made off his fixed taxi meter.


I should have taken public transportation downtown or my rental car. Even if I had gotten a parking ticket, it would have been cheaper.


The bus ride to the Mayan ruins was included in the Mexican excursion package. I snorkeled for the first time in my life, and I even shot some underwater video with my GoPro. The food was good, and the excursion overall was a 10, especially since I was able to run from the bus back to the restaurant and pick up that photo package.


It is displayed in my home. When I look at it, I am reminded of the little girl, the young woman and the circumstances that led up to making their frown turn into a smile.


I got played, right? I’m such a sucker.