Monday, December 29, 2008

Yes, we Cancún

As my wife Kara and I discussed our upcoming “can’t-carry-over-our-vacation-to-2009” trip to Cancún, Mexico, with a group of friends last week over dinner, our friend Anna warned us against bringing anything over the Transportation Security Administration-regulated 3.5 ounces of sunscreen.

“My friend had a half-full four-ounce container, and they made her throw the whole thing away,” she said.

We all gasped in horror. Sunscreen protects all of us, but who will protect the sunscreen?

Eventually, the conversation made its way to more esoteric regulatory issues.

“Are you allowed to wear gel inserts in your shoes when you fly?” someone asked. “What if they have too much gel in them?”

This brought the mental image of a TSA agent holding up his hand before allowing you through the X-ray machine. “Hold on. Federal aviation regulations require me to ask,” the agent would say. “Are you gellin’?”

If you didn’t get that joke because you haven’t seen the annoying-by-design Dr. Scholl’s commercials for gel inserts, then you can consider yourself on the winning end of that particular bargain.

Before Kara settled on Cancún as a destination, thanks to one of those elusive last-minute travel deals, I’d been thinking that maybe we’d go somewhere closer, like a nearby truck stop to check out the jerky selection. The only thing I knew about Cancún was that we, as a nation, sent all of our obnoxious college students there every spring to get rid of them for a week.

Apparently, though, people plan vacations to Cancún for reasons other than a proclivity towards wet T-shirt contests. Kara signed us up for tours to various natural and manmade attractions, including the ancient Mayan temple Chichen Itza, which I had heard of before, but always thought was some kind of snack cracker, like a distant relative of the Cheez-It.

So we pulled the trigger, and shortly after landing in Cancún, we found ourselves in an endlessly snaking line of tourists trying to sneak in a vacation before the holidays, creaking along with our roller bags and waiting to show our passports. Beside the line hung a huge and strategically placed billboard, which I had time to memorize down to the pixel, advertising the local Outback Steakhouse. Really, that’s why most people come to Mexico in the first place: to eat the authentic faux-Australian American food. Then they go to Switzerland to see if they can find any decent Hershey bars.

As of this writing (deadline: hours ago, but an editor’s physical threats are not nearly as scary when viewed from behind a margarita glass), we’ve been in Cancún for just over 24 hours, and it didn’t take nearly that long to understand why so many people come here. The weather has been perfect, the people we’ve met have been welcoming and the natural surroundings are beautiful to the point of approaching surrealism. When travelling, though, I always try to find something to whine about, so that I can feel better about where I live after returning home. It’s a defense mechanism, like rationalization or a catapult.

If you need a reason to justify living in the Northeast, to keep scraping your windshield when people in warmer climates are scraping the bottom of their piña coladas and worrying about whether they’ve evenly applied their sunscreen, let me offer you this phrase: year ‘round mosquitoes. Today, I’m pretty sure that I picked up a nice new mug for the kitchen and malaria.

Even so, a little yellow fever might be worth it. We’ve never tried to fit a vacation in before the whirlwind of Christmas with our families, but so far this one has been a great success. But I still think I deserved to place higher in the wet T-shirt contest.

You can drink the worm before Mike Todd gets to it at


  1. Almost spit up my drink when I read that last line. Did you really get sick, or did I read too much into that malaria comment? Anyways, keep turning in your homework late dude... it just may be that the secret ingredient that makes this an award winning column is "stress."

  2. My coworker John: "I've had KFC and Domino's in Mexico City and IKEA meatballs in Singapore"

    I have to say, I prefer Outback to KFC...

  3. Russ -- No malaria for me, man. The kind of sickness I have, they cure with electroshock therapy. Looking forward to hanging out, man! You better not have been F'ing with me on the eVite response.

    The Serge -- That is interesting, dude. Do you think all the furniture in Sweden was put together with an allen wrench?

  4. No, I think they hired Allen to do it.

  5. Sounds like fun... where are the wet t-shirt pics? I'm just sayin'...

    I've had McDonald's in Italy and France... the fries were really good in France. Again, I'm just sayin'...