Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Fourth Siesta of the Third Voyage (Day 110-150): In which, unfortunately, there is a downside to paradise.

Admit it, you read that title and thought, “Oh great. More bitching about the heat.” But I’m going to throw you a curve. The climate here does takes some getting used to (I’m thinking about ten years till I can go a day without using the words “heat”, “humidity”, and “Hot feet! Hot feet! Hot feet!”) but in all honesty, I really don’t mind it. Summer is considered the low season here in PV and as a result, there is only about 30% occupancy in all of the bay area. We have yet to wait in line at a restaurant, bar or shop. A taxi is always available. The beach is empty enough that we can let Otter play in the surf off-leash without alarming the other patrons. And the marina is quiet at night. Let’s just say that it’s easier to take the heat when you can cool off by yourself under the waterfall in a quarter-acre size pool. But, alas, paradise does come with its own drawbacks. A Trifecta of Terror if you will—two of which I have already touched upon. Aside from mosquitos and the little creatures that gum up your air conditioning hoses, there is one other entity that forms the Axis of Evil (well…four if you count T-Mobile). I’m talking of course about the ubiquitous cockroach.

We’re not sure when they arrived or why they chose us (although our well-stocked bar IS quite notable), all I know is that they’ve become the bane of my existence. Now the Deck Boss grew up in South Texas aka cockroach country so she knows a thing or two about the nasty buggers. She also knows that eradicating them is practically impossible, which is why her best advice for dealing with cockroaches is to name them. Fair enough. Let’s name them. It’s easier to kill “Succubus” than one of the nameless rabble. Editor’s Note: The Deck Boss found one in her bed one night. I think she named him “Victim”. 
So I spend my days RAIDing nooks and crannies, setting traps, and putting a coffee grounds/cinnamon/clove mixture amongst the food in the pantry (on the plus side it’s kept them out of the pantry; on the minus side it looks like a sugarplum fairy took a dump.) At night I go on roach patrol. I tiptoe into the galley with my can of RAID and flip on the light. There’s always one that freezes for a split second then makes a quick break for the edge of the counter. Like any good marksman, it’s important to shoot ahead of your target to counter his speed and trajectory. Barring a direct hit, the poisonous fog it just scuttled through will be enough to slow it down for the double tap. Then it’s on the next one because roaches, like dachshunds, always come in pairs. Moving a couple of containers will generally send the other one scurrying out. He’s easier to dispatch because it’s hard to run quickly when you’ve just pooped your pants. A scan of the other counters and a couple of warning shots into the corners and it’s mission accomplished. If I had just one word of advice to the makers of RAID it would be that every can should come with a holster so you could totally twirl that bad boy before sliding it back onto your belt.

For those roaches that are too cowardly to come out and fight like a pest, I’ve got bait traps strategically placed around the galley and in the heads (and by strategically I mean every twelve inches.) These are like the old Roach Motels (“Roaches check in but they don’t check out.”) except these are more like roach crack houses where they score some bad dope, take it back to the nest, and everyone od’s. So when I see a roach, I’m always in a quandary…should I wait for him to visit the dealer and deliver his deadly package to the masses or just RAID him right now? And then I remember hearing that for every one roach you see, there are a thousand lurking below—presumably sending out more scouting parties--and immediately hit him with a double dose.

Recently we’ve added something new to the arsenal. Costco sells an all-purpose cleaner (with a fresh lemon scent!) that does double duty as a repellent. It only came in vat size but when it comes to roach warfare, anything is worth a try. So I spent an entire afternoon washing down cabinets, counters, floors and sinks. That night I walked in on a record seven roaches. They were erratic, confused and had a distinct case of “Hot feet! Hot feet! Hot feet!” It took less than five minutes to add another seven notches on my belt. The Captain figures they were driven from their home by the RAIDing I had done earlier, attracted by the bait, repulsed by the all-purpose cleanser (with a fresh lemon scent!), got high on the drug cocktail, and freaked out. The next night there were no roaches. I have won this battle. We’ll see about the war.
You're going down, esse!

You’re not a true expat until T-Mobile kicks you out of the country.
We had a little trouble with our cell phone company. Now the obvious question is…why the hell would we go with T-Mobile in the first place? And I’d say that there was a method to our madness. You see, while Verizon and AT&T were busy trying to dominate the US, T-Mobile has been quietly taking over the rest of the world. Which would be beneficial to us beings how the rest of the world is where we want to be. Sound judgement to be sure. Why else would we venture into one of their stores aka “a pink neon discotheque where you can hardly hear over the thumping baseline” and put the fate of our communications into the hands of someone who spends their entire paycheck at Forever 21.
Now I can’t speak for the other cell phone companies (except for Sprint…because apparently we’ve made it a habit of backing the losing horse) but getting a straight answer and/or the truth out of anyone at T-Mobile is like trying to get defense secrets out of the Pentagon. They run their company on a need-to-know basis and plausible deniability aka “complete ignorance” starts from the ground up. The front line aka “disco kids” at the store know just enough to sell you on the service aka “if the customer asks if the plan can [fill in the blank], the answer is always ‘yes’.” We found out they were full of shit when our “International Plan Including Mexico and Canada” did not in fact cover Canada (well, to be fair, we had free text messaging, but no phone; which is great when you’re trying to arrange for the fabrication and international shipping of a manifold in 100 characters or less.) Not to suffer the same fate in Mexico, we visited a T-Mobile in San Diego and got confirmation from the manager aka “I’ve been here three years, sold the most plans, and have earned my Level 1 Clearance” that our international plan would indeed provide us with unlimited talk, text and data in/to/from Mexico and all points south. We found out he was full of shit when we got charged for calls made to the harbormaster in Ensenada. So we called a customer service rep aka “I can’t answer a question if it goes off the phone script but I do have Level 2 Clearance” and was told that the manager had misspoke (which is T-Mobile speak for “he had no idea what you were asking but knew that the answer was always ‘yes’.”) She informed us that we shouldn’t have been on the “International Plan Including Mexico and Canada” but rather the “International Plan Plus Mexico and Canada”. Whatever, Ernestina. Sign us up before the second ringy-dingy. Fast forward four months and we are each informed via text message that we have violated the terms of our agreement and will be cut off. We are given a special number to call (roaming charges may apply) and put in touch with a customer service rep with Level 3 Clearance. This is where we learn that buried deep down in the fine print is a clause which states that you can only qualify for an international plan if you’re not planning on actually being out of the country. The Captain naturally takes umbrage and gets in contact with someone with Level 4 Clearance. He tells her that everyone we talked to knew our intentions—that we would be leaving the country and not coming back—and all assured us that the plan would be fine. She told him he was “misinformed” (which is T-Mobile speak for “Thank God the fine print is only available online so we can change it at will”) and that the plan was only good if we were going to be spending HALF our time in a foreign country. When The Captain asked if anything could be done, she suggested we send our phones to a relative in the US and have them use them a couple weeks each month aka “the stupidest thing we’ve ever heard.”
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit too well with The Captain. Long story short, a customer service rep with Level 10 Clearance informed him that we are forthwith banned from T-Mobile. Next time you go into one of their stores, look for our mug shots. I’m sure they’re there behind the dj booth.
Out of the frying pan. Into the tortilla maker. Now I wish that this story had a happy ending in that we rode off into the sunset with our new Mexican carrier, Telcel, but if there’s something that Mexico does well it’s that it adds a whole new level to “que?” With some exceptions (read: 18-month contracts), Telcel operates on a pay-as-you-go system. Daily, weekly, and monthly plans are available—most with unlimited talk and text, but all with miniscule amounts of data. Fine for the average person, but when you use your phone for emailing, translating languages, checking exchange rates, utilizing GPS, checking the weather, and occasionally catching up on US news (shudder), it’s amazing how quickly those 1.5 gigs get eaten up. Extra gigs may be purchased and are good for 30 days but run concurrent with your base plan (which may only be a 20-day plan because it’s more cost effective to just add the extra gigs) so you must be vigilant about both deadlines so that you a) don’t end up with data but no talk/text or b) lose your extra data because your base plan got ahead of you. Confused yet? It gets better. They provide three ways to see how much time and/or data you have left but none of them really work and when they do, they don’t match and/or have nothing to do with reality. So you really have no idea how much time/data you have until you get an ominous text message in Spanish and your phone ceases to work. Ready to renew your base plan and/or buy more gigs? That can be done via text message…AFTER you put money in your account. So you either have to go to a Telcel kiosk or take your chances online (where the Spanish equivalent of “Page Not Found” is prevalent), put money into your account, then send the text telling Telcel how much you want to buy. Didn’t get a confirmation text? Clear your calendar; you’ll be spending the next three hours at the Telcel store trying to get it sorted out. To be fair to Telcel…we’re only one month in (although I’ve already bought two packages of extra gigs…thank you, Microsoft, for downloading “updates” to my computer without my knowledge and blowing through four gigs in under fifteen minutes.) and I’m certain we’ll eventually get the hang of it. Until then, we’re getting to practice our Spanish a lot. The first thing we mastered? Telcel es frustrante, pero es major que T-Mobile. Chupa T-Mobile.”
Pictured: Manager at the San Diego T-Mobile "Store"

Honorable mention to the Beast of Bucerias.  About a month ago we received some sage advice from one of the locals. It went thusly, “You’ll see a lot of dogs, cats, horses and other animals but no matter how cute or how tame or how much they seem to want it…do not try to touch them!” In other words, unless you get the okay from the owner you don’t know if that dog is over-protective or just a stray. Street cats are probably not the friendliest of felines (and most likely fleabags to boot.) And, especially here in caballero-country, it’s just not polite to touch a man’s horse without first asking. Good advice not just for Mexico but for everywhere really. I bring this up because The Captain and I went to Bucerias one day and ended up taking a stroll along the beach after lunch. We passed by three boys playing in the surf. Watching them from the shore was a medium-size terrier-type dog sporting a blue harness and a distinct air of superiority. We passed him. He watched us pass. No muss, no fuss. Until we got a good 50 yards past him at which point he ran up on us like a flash and sunk his teeth into the back of my calf. He made a couple more passes at us and each time The Captain chased him off till he finally backed off. I was more in shock than injured although I did sport a well-formed goose egg with faint teeth imprints on the back of my leg for a couple of weeks. So there you go…don’t touch the animals. And if you don’t and they still act like jerks, it’s okay to drop-kick them in the ocean.
Artist's rendering of the Beast of Bucerias

And because I just can’t let it go. With the exception of the week when The Captain’s brother and his wife came to visit and brought a five-degree respite with them, it’s been incredibly hot. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m happy to report that it’s not just us being whiney. Several people who live here year-round have remarked that this has been one of the hotter summers on record. So in the succinct words of La-Z-Guana…