When we were sophomores in college, my friends and I went to Cancun, Mexico for spring break, much to our parents’ dismay. There was a group of kids from our college going as well, and most of them booked rooms at the swanky hotel near the popular clubs that had the great party beach. Being the thrifty college kids that we were, we booked a room at a less expensive option down the street.
We shouldn’t have been, but we were surprised when our cab pulled up to a shabby, run-down hotel that was surrounded by a rickety chain link fence. Not the 4-star luxury resort that our classmates had been talking about, but no biggie! We were in Mexico! We would make the most of it. We were impressed by the size of the room (which was pretty big) and confused by the hole in the wall that lead to the balcony until we realized that that’s probably where the air conditioner had once been. The noise coming from the bathroom left us scratching our heads as well; as it turns out, the crack in the bathroom window combined with the wind tunnel in the hotel’s hallway resulted in a near constant sound that closely resembled a freight train.
The good news was, the hotel was right on a beach and had a pool that seemed pretty private, given that everyone was staying at the nice hotels down the street. Our first full day in Cancun was spent soaking up all of the rays that we had been missing after a few dismal New England winter months. We decided that our sunburns had gotten severe enough that we could call it a day and were climbing the stairs to head back to our room when it happened. A bottle hit the ground in front of us and exploded, sending the contents spraying onto the four of us. We looked up to see where the bottle had come from and saw the shocked faces of two hotel housekeepers peering over the railing 4 or 5 stories up.
I was starting to process the fact that the spots where I had been hit with the contents of the bottle were burning when the screams started. It was hard to distinguish the screams of my friends from the screams of the hotel employees who were standing in the lobby, yelling at us to get in the pool. We ran through the lobby, through the hotel’s restaurant, and past all of the sunbathers and jumped in the pool, fully clothed, and started scrubbing at the burning spots on our skin. One of my friends had gotten the stuff in her eyes and another friend was flushing it out with her water bottle.
I should mention that at no point did any of the other guests express any concern about the commotion. Just another day in Cancun.
The burning started to fade and we looked around, bewildered, and noticed that the hotel employees were standing at the edge of the pool looking sheepish. We climbed out and inquired as to the contents of the bottle, and after a good amount of hemming and hawing, one of them admitted that the bottle was full of acid.
“I’m sorry, did you say ‘acid’?”
“Yes, a little bit of acid,” he replied, holding his index finger and thumb half an inch apart.
Oh, just a little bit? We’re good then.
The hotel manager started talking about a doctor that he knew and tried to give my friend some ointment to put on the blister on her foot that had been doused with acid (she declined), but we were more interested in getting to our room to discuss what had just gone down. We cautiously started climbing the stairs again, making sure to stick to the edges in case there should be a repeat incident. We passed the remains of the bottle, which we noticed was adorned with a skull and crossbones, and scooted up to the safety of our room. After we had calmed down and established that we were all okay, one of my friends went downstairs to retrieve her shoes from the pool area and was cornered by the hotel manager, who asked her to sign a waiver saying that she wouldn’t sue the hotel. She asked him to hold that thought and ran back to the room to tell us what had happened, and we decided that we should probably get our parents involved.
As these were the days before international cell phone plans that wouldn’t render you bankrupt, and since we weren’t on great terms with the hotel at the moment, the only way to contact our families was to use the payphone on the side of the busy street outside of our humble abode. My friend Tara made the first call, but the poor pay phone connection left a few holes in the story; no matter how many times Tara told her mom that we had acid dropped on us, her mom only heard Tara say that we had dropped acid. In her eyes, we were 1 day into our trip to Cancun, a place that our parents weren’t 100% on us visiting anyways, and we had already fallen into a life of drugs. And we were calling to tell her about it.
Eventually we got the story across, we assured our parents that we were fine, and they told us not to sue the hotel. After all, the hotel clearly didn’t have any money, so the best-case scenario would have been that we would then own the hotel, and who wanted that? We played it cool with the employees to keep them on their toes and brokered a deal that left us with free drinks, free food, and free cab rides for the rest of our time there. In our opinion, we had won, big.
Moral of the story: if you’re going to Cancun, pay the extra money for the nicer hotel.
Or just skip Cancun altogether.