In my youth a catch phrase for regret often started with the words, “But it sounded like a good idea at the time.” Yesterday we found those words still ring true.
Recall that we missed our appointment to pick up the rental car on Saturday due to the late arrival of our plane. Fortunately, we were able to reschedule the car for Monday. I had reserved a newer VW GOL, standard shift, no ac, but good serviceable transportation at a fair price.
We arrived to pick up the car. In front of us were two American gentlemen, each about 60 years old, who had just returned a car complaining of some safety issues. They were quickly given a substitute vehicle and left. Focused on our business, I virtually ignored the discussion between them and the manager.
When I originally reserved our car I had asked if one of the advertised VW convertible “bugs” was available. On Saturday it was not, but it was Monday and one was available, gassed and ready to go for the same price as the more pedestrian GOL. Hell Yessss I thought!!
I entertained visions of my more reckless days… Sunglasses on, top down, my love at my side, buzzing down the road in a real classic with the wind streaming through my thinning white hair. We signed the paperwork, captured the keys, and walked around the block to the lot where our dream VW was parked.
So it was a little rough around the edges. Heck what 20+ year old car wouldn’t use a bicycle cable and lock to hold down the hood. Who really needs a working seatbelt… or for that matter a speedometer. Using a blowtorch to convert a sedan to a convertible speaks of creativity and enterprise. The windows don’t roll up, so hand signals easily substitute for a non-working left turn signal. This is going to be FUN!
When the attendant began his walk around checklist for visible damage it began to occur to me that it would have been easier for him to check-off the non-damaged areas. With each checkmark I smiled and gave an understanding nod. When he had significant difficulty starting the car Christine began shooting me concerned looks. Heck, that overwhelming odor of raw gasoline only meant that he had flooded the car. “Christine, it has a REAL carburetor, this is part of the charm of timeless German engineering.”
We seized on the opportunity to leave the car on the lot to walk the pier and cruise dock area of west Cozumel.
We have not been here before. But we have been to Cozumel’s clones in St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Ketchican, Juneau, and a dozen other places where huge ships disgorge cash laden tourists as prey for vendors who stand in the shop doors ready to pounce. I have marveled that a commodity that is as “rare” as diamonds can be offered in such an endless supply by so many shops worldwide.
We made short work of our sojourn through the markets and decided to seek out a beer before returning to our little “Luv Bug”. As luck would have it a promising bar was just ahead and the two Americans were each having a beer, fingers wrapped around the biggest burritos I had ever seen. They waived us over to join them. We were scarcely seated before that began to share the saga of rental cars #1 and #2. I vaguely recalled their complaints at the service desk about rental #1. However, I now learned that they had only gotten 2 blocks in #2 before the clutch did a complete fail. They were forced to push the car half up on a sidewalk to avoid blocking traffic. Clearly, the Universe was telling them, “no car rental for you”. Damn the bad luck for those agreeable fellows. They were waiting for their gals to come back from shopping and explained that they had decided to catch a cab to the resort on the east side of the island. Small world, they had rooms at Ventanas where we are lodged! We promised to continue our visit over beer there later in the evening. Back to the VW.
I got it started, barely. Finding reverse, first gear, and second gear became a game of “hide and seek”. Turning the steering wheel between 10 and 2 o’clock had absolutely no effect on the direction the vehicle travelled. There is much more, but suffice it to say my delusional bubble had popped. Within 5 miles I executed a U turn (given the steering, it was more like a cursive “W”) and much to Christine’s relief I announced that life is too short and I didn’t want to make it any shorter. We returned the car and caught a cab.
Back at Ventanas we were greeted by the two Americans and found that the rental car perils we shared made for big smiles and fast friendships. Al and Elizabeth are from Minneapolis and their good friends, Rick and Holly are from Denver. The world shrank just a bit more as we discovered that they were staying in rooms that adjoined ours! The tone for the evening was set for wine, dine, tequila and talk. My jaw dropped when we learned that Rick and Holly had owned a log home a stones throw down the road from where we are building a vacation home in rural Colorado. What a coincidence!… as if running into them at the car rental place, then the bar, and then finding that they are among the 34 guests at the same resort where we are staying wasn’t coincidence enough.
Later, our cadre grew by one more couple. Tracy and Mark from Springfield Missouri. During the evening we discovered that Tracy’s favorite uncle is Scott Sifferman… who 40 years ago was my friend and classmate throughout 3 years of law school. Damn, but you just can’t make this shit up!
Peace Everyone… and as Eddie in San Juan Puerto Rico told me in 2018, “Pete, In life there are no coincidences.”
PS. It is worth remembering that had our plane landed on time, or our car rental been perfect, none of this would have happened and we would have been poorer by 6 friends never met.