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Note No. 75

July 14, 2010

Lesson No. 1 on this island: Don’t ever pat yourself on the back. Disaster will surely follow.

Last night, the two new managers and I got home from a full day in Cancun, which in and of itself is a feat that could leave triathletes short of breath. But we made it and everyone was still standing and we were all three feeling pretty full of ourselves, because not only had we managed to complete a pretty complicated To Do list, we had discovered how much we love the Magaña ferry.

Quick background: there are two passenger ferry companies that run between the island and the mainland, Ultramar and Magaña, and if they were urban transit, Ultramar would be the subway and Magaña would be the bus.

So the reason we were even on the Magaña in the first place has to do with a difference in fare of about $5, which, when you’re a small business, does make a difference over time. When I tried to get residency passes for the two new managers, let’s just say that Ultramar would not budge on its policy that you have to have a super-complicated form of ID to get said passes, whereas Magaña cut us a sweet little deal.

At first it looked grim on our new engines. The entire shining reason that you would want to take the Ultramar ferry, other than its massive, speedy, catamaran sleekness, is that you can ride on the top deck and feel the sea breeze (as it turns your hair into a giant, deep water monster nest) but Magaña does not have such a top deck. It has a tiny, damp, freezing inside cabin with a TV that plays Spanish telenovelas, when it’s even getting a reception.

It does, however, have a front deck over the single hull and if you make sure to ask the crew to let you out there before you depart, you can spend the entire 20-minute ride in front of the captain, like a bug on a windshield. It’s amazing. And last night, after having done this a few times already and having realized that weather-permitting, it’s not a bad deal at all, we actually discovered that it’s BETTER than Ultramar, because not only are we the only people on the deck (versus a can of packed sardines on the other boat), we are closer to the water and some of the boat models even have a lower style railing that allows you to sit leaning against it, so that you are basically doing this. Or something like that.

So, yes, we got back to the island feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.

Mistake. Big, fat mistake. Because the first thing I discovered when I rushed into the bathroom, ready to drop my pants, was—

“Oh. There’s a—”

Man. And a hole. And a broken pipe.

Welcome home, suckers. The busted water line that was supposed to be fixed by 5 that afternoon was still out of commission at nearly 8 o clock, which meant the hotel had no water, and there was too much scale inside of the pipe to get the soldering to hold fast, so every time they thought they had repaired it, it broke open again a few inches farther down.

There we were then, in the middle of that, unpacking bags of shopping in which my shampoo had decided to explode all over my brand new chocolate, and it looked like we might not have water for the next 12 hours, but we managed to pull a dinner together anyhow and as we sat to eat, workers were running in and out of the kitchen, yelling at each other through the gigantic hole in the bathroom wall, which looked out on the courtyard.

And everything was suddenly right back to its tortuously normal self.

Except at the end of the tunnel was a luxuriously white room with fresh sheets and a sea view. Due to maintenance on my room, I had just been upgraded that morning to the unofficial honeymoon suite. So there I was, watching the guys finalizing their eternal repair on the Pipe that Wouldn’t Weld, and I was beginning to count sheep. But just as the pipe finally held its patch and they could at last turn the water on, one of them commented that “a faucet must be on in Room 3 (my room),” because there was a lot of water running somewhere. I went out to check and as I climbed the stairs past the pool, I could already hear some liquid gushing coming from above.

No. Can’t be. That simply cannot be coming from my room.

This, I thought, all the while that I was getting ever closer to my quarters, noticing now that water was pouring freely off the upper balcony, as if there was a rainstorm localized in exactly this one spot on the island. This, I thought, as I climbed the final stairs to my place, all the while trying not to slip on the waterfalls gushing towards me. And this, I no longer thought, as I finally climbed the last stair and clearly saw panicked water pushing itself under my door, onto the entry step where it was finally free to flow in all directions.

I could not get my key in the door fast enough. And sure enough, my entire room was flooded. I am not exaggerating when I say that about 1,000 gallons must have completely covered almost every square inch of floor. I took one look and fled back downstairs to the window leading into the office, where my adorable trainees were naively enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet.

“Come! Now! Close the office and come now! You have to see this to believe it!”

And bless their hearts. They actually thought I was going to show them a sea turtle that had crawled ashore and perhaps, miraculously scaled some buildings to make it to our courtyard. I guess the excitement in my voice belied the fact that they were actually coming to see something horrific. But that just tells you what sort of sick sense of humor one develops after a few years here, because in fact, if you overlook the massive waste of a valuable resource that was going on up there at that very moment, the entire episode was actually quite hysterical.

After we picked our jaws off the ground, we snapped to attention and began taking care of business. What had happened is the following: one of the housekeepers had turned on the spigot in my shower when the water in the hotel was cut off and then she left it on, so that when the boys turned the water back on, the spigot began spewing water out full force. Because the drains on the island sometimes have the tendency to stink, we always put covers over them to keep the foul odors contained. Such a cover was in place when the spigot began its spray and thus, in probably two minutes flat, the 4-inch basin on the shower filled up and began generously watering the rest of the premises. It probably took no more than five minutes total to completely flood my room.

After a brief consideration of where else in the hotel I could sleep, it was determined that there were not a lot of choices but that one room, and so, with squeegees and towels, we pushed that water out, out, out, laughing all the while, because what else was there to do? It was all too insane to do anything but laugh and really, the irony of the situation was too much. To think that we had been worried about not having any water at all about two hours earlier.

Lesson No. 2: Whatever you’re worried about is likely to end up the smallest of your concerns.

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