Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Whine Bar

You're not going to like this, but it's true. We, Americans, have become a nation of whiners. This isn't new but it's getting worse.  Complainers. Big wheat belly achers. The fat guy at the table who never gets enough to eat and yet a bounty lies before him. We bitch about cable tv customer service like it's a birthright to have 200 channels of nothing in particular. But we PAID for the service and we want our $60 worth! And they left me on HOLD for 20 minutes!

After you get up and running, be sure to go over to CNN and catch some of the devastating rubble in Nepal after yet another earthquake. Be confident no one is searching for the remote.

We demand cheap prices AND good food in restaurants because someone, somewhere came up with the mantra The Customer is Always Right. No, you're not. If you've got demands of quality and price you're never gonna find it. You do have control over it though...you. Home. Beans. Rice. Repeat.

There is no restaurant owner anywhere who says,

Ya know what? I'm going to work 14 hours a day every day to have the best ingredients available from hardworking fair wage farmers to create a creative, delicious, timely dish that is exactly how YOU want it. I'm going to serve it to you in a room of the perfect temperature and size with just the right amount of space between patrons and pay my fun, easy going never late or absent staff a better than fair wage to wash up after you and I'm going to rent this commercial space for too much money to do it in. That dish will cost me every bit of $20 in the end, but you know what? I'm going to sell it to you for $15 because that's what it "should cost" in your mind. I'm going to flush $5 every time you walk through the door so you can feel like you got a good value while you drive home with your pants unbuttoned. Or maybe you'll go home and write a scathing review on Yelp. 

And dammit I've done it. I have. Hospitality and I have a torrid past. I love hotels. They don't always return the infatuation.  I've changed my room because the room smelled funny or there were mosquitoes breeding in shower drain and I feared Dengue. I changed because there was a flood light in my window all night that made me feel like I was in A Clockwork Orange, but it did serve well to illuminate the couple who were having sex on the hammock that hung outside my window. I left a rental apt because the door to get out wouldn't open but the door to get in my apt wouldn't lock. There was no AC, cafe, manager, towels or WiFi on property as promised on the website. We moved to a house with no AC (in the jungle at 94 degrees) which had fans and the elusive "cross ventilation" that everyone talks of that only works if there is a breeze and that only comes during monsoons so the breeze is actually ---water.

There was a snake under Nicole's bed. My shower dribbled out some water but not really enough to call a "shower", so we just used the large dog bowl "splash" pool. We saw the gardener filling the cistern with the garden house but we ran out of water after 3 days and none of the toilets flushed. My pillows were stuffed with what I can only imagine to be heads of cabbage and old socks. All cafes in town were outdoors but the charm was tarnished by the cans of Off! on every table next to the pepper mill. If you go organic and pass on the Deet? You will look like a measled child before you finish the bottle of wine that makes you care less. Our view was of the neighbor's roof where his dog lived which was covered in feces. Much of the ad copy describes this part of the world as Paradise. I have been going for 25 years. I don't think I'll return.

All of these things happened in Mexico. And you know what everyone said? It's Mexico! and shrugged their shoulders. It was the national slogan for everything from brackish water to downed WiFi to street dogs fighting in the middle of the road over territory rights to the steak house dumpster. Bad service and mas o menos housekeeping. Noise at all hours. Most probable dysentery. Outside of the populated big cities, most surely dodgy technology. It's Mexico!

Of course there is lots to love. Food, architecture, music, dance, art, scenery, landscapes, diving in the Caribbean with long haired Tarzan looking boat guides. But the comforts of home? Meh.

The subtext, of course, is this: Get Over It. You'll get used to it. And if you don't? You'll go home. But we're not changing it. 

Mexicans deal with a lot of adversity and it doesn't bother them like us. The stuff that should bother us doesn't (wall street tycoons getting rich while our housing market crashes,  human trafficking, govt corruption) but we sure get our tail tied in a knot over "service" and the shrinking size of airplane seats. Many Mexicans (read: poor working class) don't feel entitled like we do. They know everything is corrupt and that good services and protection are for the wealthy Narcos and that if they want anything, they'll have to do it for themselves or go without. Going out to dinner or traveling and staying in hotels is a rare and exciting time for most average people. It probably wouldn't cross their mind that the bathroom is too small for 6 to share.

Fernando, my guy for a few years, is a Mexican National but he lives here. He complains way less than me. He's a roofer in the South, you can't be a whiner and be a roofer. He wanted to call his mom for Mother's Day and couldn't reach her because the land lines are out of service in their rural town. For WEEKS. He owns a cyber cafe there and it's routine that other businesses and houses nearby ride on his internet cables and most definitely the electricity. No one does anything. And who would you call anyway? And yea, the phone. Cell service is lousy and the ONE company TelCel that covers the entire country? Doesn't care about unpopulated areas so much. So he Skypes with his mom and dad when they aren't out plowing the fields or castrating sheep or worrying about drought.

When he does talk to them, his little tiny Indian mom with her braids and his dad with a 10 gallon cowboy hat and a tortilla sized belt buckle say 'Todo bien! Todo bien! Everything's fine! We're great! 

He never has a pillow that is too hard. Never is he "in the mood" for one thing or another for dinner. If something breaks on his car, he fixes it. He does think the ladies at the hardware store are incredibly rude and he doesn't understand why people keep jobs that they clearly despise. And I'm pretty sure he thinks silently when getting ignored by a cashier, are you kidding? at least you're working in air conditioning.

So this is why I have little sympathy for the sad faces when they find out (because they didn't read the website) that there is no cable tv.

Tell me what's to love! The beds have good mattresses and linens are of the highest quality. Each room has a bathroom and private yards are all around. The grounds are lush and colorful. The new hot water heater is burn your ass hot and bigger than you'll need. The AC is blowing and there are 28 pima cotton freshly laundered line dried towels in the closet. The price is 1/3 of a local hotel which has none of these amenities. But please, again, tell me your negative feelings about not being able to watch non stop pharmaceutical commercials or C-Span. I'm riveted.

Like little crack addicts emptying their pockets looking for lint to smoke. But, but, at home we have satellite TV and, and, the refrigerator is bigger and there's an ice maker! But you're not at home, friends, traveling is hard. Dozens of magazines and tv shows would posit otherwise but Dorothy was onto something. There is no place like home. But this may be good for you. Traveling is eye opening. Getting out of your nightly rut of zoning on the sofa and hearing the endless barrage of mainstream media? This is the place to do it. But we're not Amish, you can still binge watch about 10,000 shows on there.

The last group who stayed here had 8 people and a million requests and all of them were met by me, the bedraggled house manager who also has the task of paying for all this crap and maintaining it. Yea, I know. I need to do this to pay for the joint. I'm venting. Hoping they'd leave a good review for all my efforts, freshly baked cookies, a bottle of wine, a bowl of tangerines---instead, the whiny mom texted a week later--a recipe for organic weed killer "to spray the weeds on the sidewalks". Sweet Mary, what is our national obsession with weeds??? They left no review. I guess I'm happy. It could have been negative. The water heater blew and we had to wait 3 hours to get in our 8 showers after the manager paid $1000, and we had to call her to turn on the heat because the inlaws are from Florida and they don't want a house to be 68 degrees in April. 

But I need to let go of my expectations of meeting other people's expectations. A friend of mine says, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Just do your best, and people can take it or leave it.

I know not all Americans are woo bags, and not all Mexicans are easy going, but when it comes to services we have an embarrassment of riches and it seems we find fault with all of it. We need to look at everything for what it is. Don't go to the five and dime and look for rubies.  Don't go to a restaurant with a focused small menu and wish it was Chili's and conversely don't go to a pub on Hwy 78 and ask for a wine list and lament the lack of late harvest Rieslings. Don't go to remote tropical locations and expect the AC to frost the windows.

No one can meet all your imaginary, very personal secret demands. Sometimes it happens, and it's magical. And if it's really important? Ask nicely. Most service folks could care less if you want a softer pillow or a darker room. But know your limits. If you must have cableTV (and I've lost clients over this) ask before you show up. And maybe, just maybe consider your addictions. If it's nationally imperative you can listen in your car. And if it will affect your stock brokering hobby, update your tech. Stop looking for someone to blame because you can't be self sufficient.  I refuse to bear the burden of being all things to all people for $250/night.

I've decided not to react to the discovery of "no cable" as a fire to put out. It says so on the website, you booked last minute, didn't investigate the amenities, there's a ton of other stuff to do and hey, It's Mount Airy! You'll get used to it! 

And it turns out, all is well.