Tales of Travel Terror: Mice in Paradise
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Mice like peanuts.
I did not know this fact before our trip to Cancun. My husband and I traveled there for a week last August to celebrate our anniversary.
I also didn’t know that Cancun in August is miserable for people from Oregon, 90% humidity and all. But it was the low season and we’re teachers, so we got a good deal and it was our summer vacation.
Sticky with sweat, we stood at the front desk of the lobby of our hotel.
“I’m sorry,” a manager said. “Your room is not ready until tomorrow.”
“But we’ve had a reservation since January,” my husband, Jeff, replied. His body tensed. Tall, dark and covered with hair, he sweated in snow, so this humidity was unbearable.
“No, no, we have a room for you, but not your room,” he said, gesturing to help us understand his heavily accented English. He was the third “manager” we had talked to in twenty minutes.
Jeff and I relaxed a little when he gave us our keys and directions to the room, which was down a hallway off the lobby.
Hauling our luggage, we entered our first-floor, ramshackle, beat up, spring break room for drunken teenagers. There were holes in the sheetrock and an air conditioner that rumbled but failed to generate cold air.
Jeff and I looked at each other. “Don’t unpack,” he said.
I shrugged. “It’s only one night.”
It was eleven o’clock, and we were tired from a day of traveling. Dressed in shorts and t-shirts, we crawled into our double beds. I turned on the TV in front of our beds.
Static. I flipped through the channels. More static.
Jeff climbed out of bed and examined the back of the TV. “The cords look fine. It’s all plugged in.”
We looked at each other, chuckling. “This is awesome!” I said. “Front desk?”
“Let’s just turn out the light.”
We lay there, tired but unable to sleep, sweating in the damp darkness.
My ears perked at the noise. What was that? I thought.
Jeff lay on his side, facing away from me. He didn’t move or speak.
He must be asleep, I thought.
I froze. Do I want to know? I thought.
Jeff sat up in bed. He flipped the light switch by his bed.
I pretended to sleep. The crinkling stopped.
Jeff climbed out of bed, searching around the TV again, which sat on a low, wide dresser. Our carry-on bags sat next to the TV, along with unopened packages of airline peanuts and granola bars.
Jeff sighed, got into bed, and flipped off the light.
We lay for a few minutes. I felt stiff, my heart drumming in my chest. I envisioned a rat as big as a Pomeranian with beaver-like teeth.
“What is that?” Jeff flipped on the light and climbed out of bed again. The noise had stopped. I stole a look at the clock: 12:30 a.m.
Clearly, I was not going to sleep.
Jeff rummaged through our carry-ons and around the TV again. He hefted our unopened suitcases onto his bed, one at a time, searching through them.
I couldn’t pretend to sleep any longer. “Why are you checking those?” I asked.
“Because we have those plastic travel bags,” he said. “Maybe they’re opening up, getting air in them and making noise.”
Really? I thought. Does he not know there is some kind of large, scary animal in our room?
I couldn’t speak that thought out loud.
He examined the unopened snacks on the dresser. “Did you open these?”
“Hmph,” he said. He placed one of the packages of peanuts on the edge of the dresser and came back to bed, turning out the light.
He perched, sitting up, hand on the light switch.
Light blinded me.
“F**K! There is a rodent in our room!”
“Time to go!” I said, rolling out of bed.
We clambered into our flip flops and grabbed our bags. Jeff put the package of peanuts, now with small puncture holes, into his pocket.
Again we stood at the front desk.
“THERE IS A RAT IN OUR ROOM,” Jeff stated. He slapped the package of peanuts onto the counter.
“Rat?” said the fourth “manager” of the night. “No, a meece.”
“Whatever!” I said.
“Oh, it’s a meece, it’s a meece, no problem.”
“Yes, problem!” I said.
“We send in housekeeping, it’s good.”
“NOT GOOD,” Jeff said. “WE ARE NOT GOING BACK IN THERE.”
There was a scramble of “managers,” each taking his turn talking to us about the situation. A young man soon returned from our room, carrying a broom and dust pan. We looked at each other. He shrugged.
Finally, the crowd of “managers” came to a decision.
“We have a room,” one said. “We put you in there, but you have no key.”
“How will we stay in a room with no keys?” Jeff asked.
“The room is only for tonight. Your room is ready at 8:00.”
Jeff looked at me. It was now 1:30 in the morning. “I gotta sleep,” I said.
A “manager” escorted us up to the fifth floor, letting us into a room. We woke at 8:00, hungry and wanting to settle in. We ate breakfast at a nearby restaurant, hoping for a ready room sometime during the day.
By 2:00, we used an actual key to open the door to our air-conditioned, rodent-free room, across the hotel complex from our first unfortunate experience.
I flopped onto the bed, exhausted. “Did you really think the crinkling was from our suitcases?” I asked.
“No. But I didn’t want to say out loud what I really thought it was,” Jeff said, unpacking his suitcase.
“Yeah, I didn’t either. I was hoping it wasn’t true.” I was silent for a moment. “Funny how that strategy didn’t work.”
The diarrhea started the next day. We didn’t talk about it.
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