All relationships have a similar dynamic. There is a person with a strict and strong moral compass. Everything is black and white for them. The other person is barely out of prison.
People will align with one camp, “yeah, if it wasn’t for me, he or she would be in jail.” The other camp is saying, “yeah, I’d still find a way to make jail fun.”
For example, I have never driven a scooter in my life. I’m not particularly interested in them. I would never drive one here in the States because, as a driver, I don’t trust anyone else on the road.
But that’s exactly what I wanted to do when my wife and I visited Tulum for our honeymoon.
When I’m on vacation, I adopt this attitude where everything is allowed. I don’t need to do the things I typically do because, in a foreign land, I can do whatever I want, and all is fair.
My wife wasn’t convinced, but I finally got her on board with a weak, “how hard can it be? Everything is controlled by your hands. It’s not a real motorcycle. In a way, it’s a kid’s motorcycle.”
On this moped, you accelerate by rolling on the throttle with your right hand, and you brake by clutching with your left hand.
How hard could it be? You accelerate when you want to go, and you brake when you don’t. Just like everything else in life. Hell, just like life itself.
Now, we didn’t plan to rent a scooter when we were planning our honeymoon. Everything we wanted to see or visit was close to our hotel. But our concierge told us about the abandoned Lighthouse in Punta Allen and how it was one of the most beautiful views you could ever see.
Punta Allen is a small Mayan fishing village in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
How could we miss that?
I could’ve hired a taxi, but my brain works in mysterious ways. Somehow I wanted to make it more of an adventure. Besides, if I had means of transportation, I could use it to drive into town and get food where the locals eat.
When we started towards Punta Allen, I expected an off-road drive, but in my mind, it was going to be a sandy road surrounded by luscious tropical jungle.
Instead, it was a very rough and uneven patch full of pre-colonial rocks. It was surrounded by jungle, alright. But it wasn’t cute because we were immediately hit by mosquitos the size of chihuahuas.
Driving that road was like running a marathon on a pogo stick in the middle of a Fear Factor challenge.
At some point, my wife told me that she had had it. She wasn’t going to be eaten alive by mosquitos as part of our honeymoon. We headed back.
I later found out a small detail the concierge forgot to mention. To get to Punta Allen, I needed to drive 50 kilometers — roughly 30 miles. I’m glad I stopped after less than one, or I am sure this ride would’ve severed my spine.
I convinced my wife that since we had the scooter for a full day, we should go into town and eat at the local fish market. Again, she reluctantly agreed.
To get to the town, we needed to jump on the freeway. I now had less than thirty minutes of experience driving a scooter. I was positive I could drive as fast as all the cars, buses, and 14-wheelers around me, doing more than 100 MPH.
I didn’t admit it to my wife because even though we had just gotten married, I still needed to look more confident than I felt to impress her. But it was terrifying to drive this tiny scooter amid these giant vehicles speeding past us.
Somewhere in my head, this precarious situation felt safer than losing my virginity to a pogo stick.
We got to the fish market at the edge of town. The shack was kitty-cornered to the freeway like only you would have on a village of fishermen with a death wish.
When the server came up, I ordered the ceviche with the highest fish count.
I think I got screwed because they could detect from my accent I wasn’t Mexican, so they charged me the going gringo rate. I probably ended up paying for four pounds of fish, a grand total of two bucks — what a rip-off.
The dollar-to-fish ratio seemed like such a bargain to me, that I let it go.
When the ceviche came out, it took my wife one second to decide that it seemed fishy.
I, on the other hand, was excited. More for me!
And let me tell you, it was delicious. The freshest fish I’ve ever gotten. It was a mountain of fish so big that I barely made a dent in it.
Between being so full and the heat, I started to feel sleepy on the drive back. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I was before. You could say I was flounder-ing.
I made it to a four-way stop, and all traffic lights were red. I had enough time before the traffic across the street from me turned left. So I wanted to turn right before they came my way.
When I looked up, I saw the cars rushing toward me faster than I expected them. I hit the brake, so I would let them go by.
Only I didn’t hit the brakes and instead rolled on the accelerator. I accelerated so hard that I cut in front of the oncoming traffic. Every time I tried to brake, I accelerated instead until I hit the freeway divider.
The good thing is that in Mexico, dividers are not like the concrete barriers dividing freeways in the US. They are a strip of grass six feet wide, surrounded by a small concrete curb. That was good for me because when I hit it and I flew over the scooter, I had enough runaway to roll and stop.
Nothing would’ve happened either way because the traffic on that lane was stopped as they were waiting on their light to turn green.
I stopped rolling in front of a bus.
I imagine someone in the bus calling out to the rest of the passengers, “Hey, look at this pinche gringo rolling and doing gringo things.” Until I stopped rolling, and they saw my skin color was brown like his, “no, wait. Ay, chingada, este huey is one of us. This dumbass is raza! I guess every race can have dumb people.”
When I finally stopped rolling, I started looking for my wife. Two days ago, she had said that she would be with me for better or for worse, and this was definitely not my best.
I looked for her, and I couldn’t find her. I panicked. I finally did.
I looked into her eyes, and she was…
Oh, this is hard to say…
She was standing there judging me!
She was just there shaking her head at me with her arms crossed over her chest — so angry.
I could see from the look on her face she was making difficult math, “we got married two days ago, we will be back in the US in six days, can I still get an annulment?”
As it turns out, my wife never really fully boarded the scooter so she could avoid any accidents.
So this is how the accident played out: I break, but I don’t, I hit the divider, I fly, I roll, I stop. When my wife saw that I had forgotten how to brake, she just gingerly extended her legs, and just like that, she got off from the back of the scooter and pretended like we weren’t even together.
I picked up the bike, dusted my bruises, and convinced my wife to get on the bike by promising that once we made it to the hotel, there would be no more driving around. And I meant it!
When we made it to the hotel, I saw the fiberglass body of the bike was dented, and it had popped out from where it was supposed to be.
Then I got worried. I had exchanged a dangerous ride around town for my passport, and I didn’t get the insurance because I’m Superman’s distant and Latino, cousin.
I didn’t have any more money to pay to fix this scooter.
A month ago, I had sold my beloved Mitsubishi Lancer so I could afford this honeymoon. I was convinced I was going to be in an episode of Locked Up Abroad — as Federales are notorious for making your life miserable if you don’t pay them off, and I had no money to pay them off.
I had an idea.
I talked to the cooks at our hotel, and they helped me fix the bike. We un-dented the dent, we popped the body back in place, and we cleaned up.
The next day I returned the bike. When the clerk asked me how the ride was, I told him, “it was the best experience of my life. That’s the kind of experience you expect when you travel. You know what I’m saying?”
When he returned my passport, I turned around without saying goodbye, I walked out of the office, and I powerwalked to the corner of the block. When I finally made it, I started running back to our hotel.
I didn’t pass by that store for the remainder of my trip in case they actually found out the scratches and dents under the polished surface.
You might think I am a hoodlum because of the dent-and-run, but as I said, all is fair when you are on vacation.
Besides, Montezuma exacted his revenge.
If you don’t know what that means is when the Aztec god punishes tourists who misbehave with severe gastric distress.
Misbehaving can include infractions as big as dent-and-runs or as small as trusting the water locals clean their fish with.
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