Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Arriving in San Miguel

The little plane I was on at DFW was delayed. We sat on the runway for a couple of hours. Was there really no team able to come push us back and retract the runway? Or maybe I have that in reverse-order.

Two guys in the aisle behind me carried on a long chat about their jobs, and one of them was super-loud. Little bits of ice kept falling on me from the vents above.

Finally, we flew—only a few hours—to Queretaro, Mexico. This is a new airport, and we were the only flight coming in this time of night. It still took a while to process us, though we couldn't have totaled more than fifty people including the crew. I hit the little random button and got the red light—my bags were searched. Which was mildly inconvenient, but given I hadn't overpacked and things were not stuffed into my bag, no big deal.

I found my shuttle bus driver outside Immigration, and together we waited for the other shuttle passenger, who must have been sitting near the back of the plane. The three of us piled into the shuttle van, and we were off to San Miguel.

The other passenger promptly fell asleep. I could see why. The drive seemed to take forever, though the distance is short. We had to keep slowing down for all the speed bumps along the way.

"Animas, right? Or Privada de Animas?"

I told the driver "Animas" with great certainty. I had no idea what Privada de Animas was (it turned out to be a little street off of regular Animas), and started to wonder if I was right. But then he pulled up in front of a reddish-brown squat plaster-y colonial row house with a sign on it.

"What does the sign say?" I asked. I couldn't see it in the dark.

"Vacation Rentals With Personality," said the driver, with a laugh.

"This is it."

I thanked him, pulled my luggage out of the van and to the door, and as the van pulled away, I found myself staring at the bells and wondering which to push. Nothing said "Office" or the name of the company. There were just four generic bells, for four generic apartments at 1:30 AM.

So I knocked, assuming the man-with-the-key would be in the lobby.

I knocked louder, and looked again at the bells. Which apartments had people in them? If I pushed the bottom left one, would people hear? Would I be waking up a honeymooning couple in their charming apartment?

Then someone answered the door and let me in. But it wasn't the man-with-the-key, it was another client.

"My mother lives across the street, but she's overcrowded now, so I'm staying here."

No one with a key was wandering around inside, so I went to my room to see if there was a key in the door. Nothing. I looked at the roof to see if there was a sofa to sleep on until morning. Nothing. Also, there was no sofa in the common area or I'd have crawled onto it on the spot.

The other client brought out his room's landline and I called the "Call in case of emergency" number. Me having no idea how to get into my room seemed close to an emergency.

"Hello?" A sleepy woman answered.

"Hello, I came in late, and no one is here with the key."

"Why didn't you call?"

"What, from the plane?" I laughed. She didn't. She gave me a lecture on calling when you're late.

I took a breath. Surely I wasn't the first tourist to come in on a late plane. She'd expected me at midnight. I'd assumed the people who worked here would have the same access to online arrival times I had from my phone or laptop. That's why I'd repeatedly sent my arrival information. Not because it's fun. If someone in the tourist business doesn't know how to find out when a flight arrives by this time in their lives, I can't really help them.

"I was on the plane. You can't call from the plane. And my SIM doesn't work here. Should I go to a hotel tonight?"

There, I trumped her. Go on and lecture me. I'm here. Send me the damn key.

"No. Just wait."

A minute later, a rumpled man came out of one of the guest rooms. Fairly predictable, aside from not knowing which room he'd fallen asleep in and which bell to ring. Surely he could have put up a "Ring this bell" for which apartment he'd decided to sleep in. Or maybe he was sleeping by the window so he could hear me, and just hadn't.

He carried my luggage up a ridiculously steep spiral staircase to a small studio apartment in the sky. I thanked him (I hope he wasn't waiting on a tip because I had not small local currency yet) and fell fast asleep.

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