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Friday, May 6, 2016

South of the border

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bud Hunt, publisher Daily Dunklin Democrat
Last week my wife took me on vacation. This year's trip was an all-inclusive resort located in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun. It was our first time to that area. Cancun is a popular spot for some of our friends who have commented favorably on their experience so we were looking forward to our trip.

There were several couples, also first time visitors to that area, who accompanied us, but earlier on they adopted and paraphrased the Las Vegas line; "What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico." Truth be known, there wasn't a lot of mischief on any of our parts, but I'll respect their wishes.

The resort we called home for a week is called The Royal. No one in the group had anything bad to say about the resort. The food was good and the quality was above what is sometimes offered at similar all-inclusive resorts.

Staff at the resort was very friendly and accommodating. They work hard at making sure their guests have a good time. They also do a great job keeping the resort clean, grounds as well as the facility.

If there was one complaint it would be that we could not all sit together at dinner. They limited tables to eight people and with ten of us in the group that meant we were splitting up one way or another and sitting at nearby tables. What seemed to work well was the five guys at one table and the five girls at another. Thinking about that now, I'm not so sure that maybe one of the girls didn't arrange that with staff members before we got to dinner.

The weather cooperated nicely. One day of rain cancelled a golf trip for the guys. It did not seem to hamper the women from shopping, though.

We may also be citizens, at least of some standing, in Mexico now.

Sitting on the beach one day we looked up and a guy in a work uniform -- there was writing on shirt, but no one in our group comprehended what it said -- that probably told which agency of the Mexican government he worked for walked up. He was carrying a sign that also had writing on it but we couldn't read it any better than his shirt. He stuck the sign in the ground in front of us.

With him was another guy on a four-wheeler. The guy on the ATV also stopped and got off of his machine. He was carrying a camera. He took a photo of the sign and us sitting on the beach behind it.

Someone next to us, who obviously spoke better Spanish than we did, asked one of the guys what they were doing. The reply came back, "Census." I don't know if it was the Mexican census or the U.S. census since we were all Americans.

We were also puzzled by something that took place at the airport.

Our bags were screened and loaded on the plane when we left the airport. However, once we arrived at the Cancun airport our bags were screened again going into the country. It didn't make sense.

Even more confusing was the red button. After passing through security and claiming our bags the security agent had us to press on a red button. A light came on when the button was pushed. Someone suggested it was a counter but that didn't make a lot of sense. One of the security people could have handled that task with a handheld device.

No complaints about the resort at all. The airline was another story.

When we booked the trip back in January four of the five couples booked a direct flight on Northwest Airlines. Shortly after that Delta Airlines acquired Northwest.

The direct flight was cancelled and we were then routed through Atlanta, connecting with a flight to Cancun there. Of course the $150-$200 per person extra we paid for a direct flight was refunded. And if you believe that let me tell you about Santa Claus.

That was less of an issue than showing up at the airport and not finding ourselves with a seat on the plane. Attempting to check in at the Delta self service terminal the computer said something to like "You're not getting on this plane." My patient wife then went up to the agent who checked her computer, punched a bunch of keys on her machine then looked up and said, "You're not getting on this plane."

We were then directed to another ticket agent and while standing in line waiting on her another person in a Delta uniform walked over took our information, punched it into a third computer and said, "You're not getting on this plane." But, stay in line and let a fourth person tell you that as well.

Having checked in with no problems at all, our friends were waiting patiently. Although, I think one of them did promise to take a bunch of pictures for us.

The fourth person either had a better machine or knew what she was doing. Some of the confusion, she said, was probably caused by the merger.

Arriving back at the airport on the following Thursday we went up to the desk to check in and guess what? Yep, "You're not getting on this plane."

The agent there was really very nice and helpful. It took a while, but he got us on the plane. We were good to Atlanta. However, he explained the system wasn't letting him print a paper ticket for Atlanta to Memphis. He was able to print a boarding pass, but not a ticket. He wrote a note on the boarding pass for the Atlanta agent saying we were okay to board and to check the remarks he made in the computer about the problem.

We showed up at the gate and presented our boarding pass to the agent there and explained to her the problem. Her reply was, "You're going to need a paper ticket." My wife tried to tell her of the problem and showed her the note on the boarding pass. Same response. I suggested to her that if she wanted us to have a paper ticket then she was going to have to print it. At which point she told me I was going to have to do it and directed us back to the Delta special services desk. I really wasn't feeling all that special at the moment.

Our friends were still waiting, although I suspect a little less patiently because we had the keys to the vehicle for at least one other couple from get from Memphis to Kennett.

We walked back to special services. The lady there looked at our boarding pass, read the note and looked on her computer. "What's the problem," she asked.

Told that the woman at the gate said we needed a paper ticket, she called the woman at the gate. At that point the woman at the gate started arguing with her. Finally, our new best friend in special services was able to convince her incompetent co-worker we were okay to board.

I figured it was just our time to having a negative experience flying. That experience didn't dampen the fun of the rest of the week though.

Bud Hunt is publisher of the Daily Dunklin Democrat, Daily Statesman, Delta News-Citizen, Missourian-News and North Stoddard Countian.