leave your inhibitions at the door
Americans suck. No, I’m not going all Third World on you. More like I’m going all French on you.
There’s a common misconception that the French hate all Americans and I’m sure that’s not completely true. They just hate the “Ugly Americans” that go and visit France. You know the ones – don’t bother trying to speak the language, treating locals like they’re servants, loud, drunk, pushy. You get the picture. If anyone from a foreign land – even from a different town – did that in America, there’s a good chance they’d get shot. Yet they never learn.
In defense of Ugly Americans, there are many vacation destinations in the world where their behavior is tolerated. In fact, there are places where it’s even encouraged. I was recently at one of those places – Playa del Carmen.
That picture is of the famous 5th Avenue that’s near the water in this town about 45 minutes south of the Cancun airport. We were on vacation with our extended family and were staying in a residential community a couple blocks away from this strip. Cruise ships often stop here, so the street is packed with vendors selling cheesy souvenirs and stupid t-shirts.
Those same cheesy souvenirs and stupid t-shirts can be purchased a few blocks away for a third of the price. But the 5th Avenue guys get away with it because there are enough tourists (mostly American) who foolishly toss their money at them.
The same goes for food. The street is lined with “restaurants” like Carlos and Charlie’s, Senor Frogs, and Fat Tuesday.
People go to these places to drink out of yardlong beer glasses, do Kamikaze shots like it’s 1988 again, and eat Mexican food that makes Taco Bell seem authentic and Hooters and Applebees look like Le Bernadin. Again, all because there are enough tourists (mostly American) who foolishly toss their money at them.
The locally-owned restaurants are getting in the act as well. With all that idiot money flying around, there’s no incentive for them to put out good food.I know this because I had one of the worst meals of my life on 5th Avenue at … La Frontera.
My brother picked out the restaurant and I didn’t want to overrule him because, honestly, this was the first time he’s EVER taken the initiative to choose a restaurant. But there were all kinds of warning signs not to go there.
Warning sign #1 – it was right smack in the middle of an uber-touristy area.
Warning sign #2 – They had a guy on the street trying to get people to go in
Warning sign #3 – That same guy offered everyone (14 of us) one free round of cocktails.
Warning sign #4 – I suppose a sign with a mustachioed cactus belongs on this list.
Warning sign #5 – Despite that pitch, there was only one other table occupied at 7pm. And that family was not happy.
But we were so hungry that my nephew’s arm was looking mighty tasty. So we went with it. Here’s how bad it was:
– That round of drinks? It had to be all Margaritas or all Mojitos. The kids couldn’t even get a Coke.
– It took 45 minutes for that round to come out.
– About 30 minutes of that time was spent waiting for menus.
– He was really rude to my kids just for the fact that they were kids.
– We ordered the table-side preparation of guacamole and were told that they were out of avocados. WHAT!?!? It’s like the national fruit of Mexico.
– When the food did come out over an hour later, every single dish had slices of avocado on it. Clearly the waiter did not want to be troubled with making the guacamole.
– My brother’s carne asada was roughly the consistency of a football. (American football or soccer ball, take your pick)
– We never got any other drinks, despite us asking repeatedly for him to come over to take our order.
– Boom Boom and I ordered a seafood platter to share. While we were waiting, we were informed that they were out of lobster. ( Again – WHAT?!?!? ) Instead, he said we’d get extra shrimp.
– When the shrimp came out, they looked nice but were absolutely raw. They weren’t even a quarter-cooked.
– So when we point it out to him, he promptly brought it back to the kitchen. Where they microwaved the fuckers.
– I never did get a fork.
Conversations about going elsewhere came up every five minutes, but with fourteen of us we knew it would be tough finding something else. In retrospect, getting some El Big Macs at the Casa de McDonald’s next door would’ve been an improvement.
When it came time to pay, I wanted to completely stiff them on the tip but was pressured to do otherwise. So I left a tip of exactly 10 pesos on a $400 meal. (The exchange rate was roughly 12 pesos = $1)
Not that the insulting tip would teach any kind of lesson to them. The lesson they’ve learned and taken completely to heart is that there’s always a fresh stream of American tourists who will gladly pay for that lousy meal. Worse yet, there are a bunch of them that would actually like that place.
But that’s a topic for another post…