Last week Nancy and I went to Mexico for a grown up getaway. We'd both been burning it with work and life obligations and I was deperately feeling the need for a decompressing getaway. We went to Isla Holbox, a remote island in the Yucatan that neither of us had been to. To get there, we'd fly to Cancun, take a car two hours north, and then get on a ferry to the Holbox.
We'd hired a car with the hotel and were expecting to see a placard with our names on it when we exited the airport. It was a madhouse and we couldn't find anyone who looked like they were coming to get us. A nice man in a uniform asked me if he'd like me to call our hotel and find out where our car was. I speak Spanish which is always helpful when traveling in Mexico. I generally feel pretty confident in my communication. "That's strangely nice." I thought to myself as he started dialing. But then I felt a little tug in my belly and I had the thought, "This is weird."
That's where my suspicions started. "Let me see the phone screen," I said and he showed me the number he'd dialed. It matched that of our hotel. I heard the man talking in Spanish to someone on the other line. He was talking about our ride, where was it, what was happening. Then the nice man looked at us and said, "Your ride says the van broke down and you should take a cab."
"Let me talk to the person you're talking to," I said. My suspicions that this was a scam were mounting.
I talked to the person on the phone who confirmed that the van had broken down and that we should take a taxi and save the receipt. The hotel would pay once we arrived. The guy in the uniform waited patiently while I finished the phone call and then led us to an area where we would meet the "taxi." It seemed odd that he took us to a more secluded area of the airport parking lot where no one could see us. I asked him to call our hotel again. He did and I again confirmed the plan with the person on the end of the line.
Finally a van came and we got in. Nancy is much more easy-going than I am and she's very trusting. I, on the other hand and borderline clinically anxious and I'm a skeptic. As we climbed into the van, I felt a surge of panic. "Nancy!" I practically screamed as I half stood in the van, "this is not right. We need to get out of this van." At this point our luggage was in the back and we were getting ready to make our way to a cash machine to take out the $320 (!!!!) we'd need to pay the driver.
"Laura," Nancy coaxed in the voice she so often uses to calm me down, "It's okay. This is just a change." I took a deep breath, sat back in my seat, and hoped for the best.
We did make it to the ferry. When we got there I asked the driver to call our hotel and tell them were we catching the ferry to the other side. He called and then reported back to us in Spanish, "The hotel said they were waiting for you at the airport for two hours but you never showed up. I just wanted you to know that they're saying they sent a car."
It was a scam. When we finally got to our hotel, we confirmed it. Those guys at the airport had a fine-tuned, well-honed plan to "help" tourists like us. Once we settled in I had the realization that we were really lucky to have gotten to our destination at all. We had prepaid the $320 and they really didn't need to drive us 100 miles north. I also had the realization that I knew the whole time that we were being swindled and I didn't listen to my gut. I was mad at myself for ignoring that voice and I was mad at Nancy for shutting it down.
I spent a good 48 hours feeling really mad-- at Nancy. And at myself. Countless times, as I sat stewing in my lounge chair under a palapa in paradise, Nancy would lean over and say things like, "Laura, I am so sorry I didn't listen to your intuition." After about the tenth apology I was finally able to engage in a conversation.