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1. You old folks still get it on.
I learned my first German phrase (jetzt bücken Schatz, “bend over, darling”) as an innocent 10-year-old, only to be traumatized while discovering its meaning because the walls were too thin and the elderly couple from Hamburg was making the most of their honeymoon.
2. You’re always leaving shit behind.
Among my collection of unclaimed souvenirs are a sword, several single earrings, and Nikon binoculars that are probably worth more than what you paid for your flight to get here. We love it when you leave us spontaneous gifts; however, more often than not you’ll want them back, and sent overseas, at our expense. Under the bed, in every drawer, be nice, check twice. Please don’t forget your wooden dildo set next time.
3. You’re too easily given to negative feelings about things you don’t know or are unable to relate to.
I’ve met people who were truly shocked to see for themselves that Mexico wasn’t just all a cactus-laden desert with sporadic gunfights, as advertised by their local media. I’ve placed Israeli and Palestinian couples at the same table, only to have them take a day trip to the beach together. I’ve had Dutch and German families laugh out loud sharing jokes about each other’s nationality.
To judge someone without having taken a single moment to try and understand their point of view and their own struggles will never result in anything good.
4. Shit happens, lots of it, and you can’t help it.
We were all excited when we first opened our hotel after intense renovating and decorating for a whole year. One week later, 9/11. Guests have complained to us because a hurricane decided to pay our city a visit during their stay, as if we had the power to fix it with a couple phone calls.
5. You’re cheap in all the wrong places.
They were about to check out, so I asked them if they’d enjoyed their vacation:
“Oh yes, the luxury cruise was fantastic! I also really loved the spa you recommended, and on the way back I even bought an amber collar for my dog; he hates to wear them, though. We loved your hotel and everything was amazing, perfect. Can we get a discount?”
6. Love is blind, and strange.
Impossible couples, we’ve seen them all. One man was so unbelievably tall, and his girlfriend so freakishly short, we were truly concerned he might accidentally fart her eyebrows off.
7. Stereotypes help.
Growing up in a hotel means people watching 24/7, and people judging 48/7. You quickly learn which are often true and which aren’t at all. Yes, we stock up on beer when we’re expecting Germans — same goes for wine and the French. Nothing wrong with that, it just makes sense, and everybody wins.
8. You put yourselves through pointless obstacles.
As we shared our biographies at the pool, I learned that he went to university, got his masters, and worked a high-salary job he disliked all year long in Chicago just so he could spend a week doing nothing on a Caribbean beach. She, on the other hand, chose to spend her college fund on a small house near Tulum and now lives in a beach town on the Caribbean, where she works all year long teaching English just so she has something to do. Who do you think is smarter or more successful?
9. You actually steal cats.
We were renovating our soon-to-be hotel when we found a weak and abandoned kitten among the rubble. Bambú became a legend at our hotel. She would get mentioned on every other review because she captured the spirit of our establishment and purred like a BMW (she once got stuck inside one; we only realized it wasn’t the engine until we turned it off). Although we can’t be certain, we’re pretty sure this one couple who was constantly raving about her is to blame. The fact that their departure coincided with Bambú’s disappearance only added weight to our suspicions after discovering cat hair on their bedspread.
Bambú, we miss you. Seven years weren’t enough. Hopefully you didn’t end up in Canada.
10. You never know who you’re talking to.
Me: Hahahah, yes you’re right, it wasn’t the best of ideas to put a fork in the electrical socket. I have my moments. So what do you do for a living back home?
She: I’m currently the president of Sri Lanka.
As a general rule of thumb, just talk to everyone as if you were speaking to the first female president of Sri Lanka about your own shortcomings. This way you’ll go places.
11. Conversation doesn’t require a common language to be engrossing.
Displaying a joie de vivre which remains unmatched by anyone else, one of our recurring guests can only communicate through movement and a speech generator, having lost the ability to speak after a terrible college football accident. He often sets his speech generator to the voice of a female with a heavy British accent, which only adds to his already deadly sense of humor. Although his machine doesn’t allow for inserting text in other languages, he’s found a way around this and writes words phonetically in English.
He always has a “GRA-see-ass” (thanks) button ready for his visits to Mexico.
12. You learn to make the most of your time with those whose company you enjoy.
Seemingly a law of hotel life, those who rub you the wrong way are in it for a 20-day stay. Unless you live in a drab business hotel, inspiring people will share your roof often enough for that not to be much of a bother.
One French guest gave me what were by far some of the most pleasant and hilarious conversations I’d ever had. We’d assigned each other an alias the first day and were having such outrageous amounts of fun during my ‘free walking tours’ that four sunny days together went by and we failed to catch each other’s names. She left unexpectedly. Never to be seen again is something I’d rather it not end with; however, the quality of our time together and the memories will suffice.