Please make sure you have read Mexican Standoff – Part 1: Humiliation before you continue.
So I lost my dinghy, I got bruised and hurt, I spent the night in the dirt, I got ripped-off and robbed. Humiliated. How deep can you fall and still not hit bottom?
Once again I remember Rocky’s words: “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward!”
And yes, I keep moving forward. A light breeze blows from the east. It will be a broad reach back to Isla Mujeres. Four to five hours, I guess. Slowly, like a freight train, my heavy steel ketch sets off. It takes a while until we finally reach our admittedly low cruising speed. But I am not in a hurry.
About half way to Punta Cancún I get hailed on VHF channel 16, the international emergency and hailing channel:
“Seefalke, Seefalke for Acapulco, over.”
Was that really Acapulco? My neighbors at my anchorage at Isla Mujeres? My quarantine buddies? My friends Conny and Günter coming to my rescue?
“Acapulco, this is Seefalke, over,” comes my formal reply.
We Germans are known for keeping a minimum of radio discipline even where everyone else doesn’t. However, we are not as bad as the British.
On channel 69 I learn that it was only in the morning that they read the message I sent to them last night, with my last remaining phone battery. Then they immediately set sail to come to my rescue. They figured my phone was dead and I wouldn’t be able to reply. We agree to meet behind the reef of Punta Cancún, anchor there and catch up.
It takes another two hours until I get there as the wind almost dies on me completely. But then my anchor, after Tropical Storm Cristobal its name is Cristo, is dropped just three boats lengths from Acapulco.
I jump into the warm and crystal clear water and swim over to them. We have a coffee and I tell my story, how I wanted to see my friend, how the surf destroyed my dinghy, the turtles, the jetskies, the betrayal, the humiliation.
As I finish Conny is the first to speak:
“Don’t let them have your motor! You need to get it back! It’s not only about the motor, it’s a question of honor! Don’t let them get away with it!”
And Günter adds:
“But you have to do it now. Otherwise the motor will be gone for good. Time is a critical factor. Every hour counts.”
At first I am not too convinced looking at the facts that I am outnumbered badly, they are well connected with the local police and I am not too keen to get beaten up by a Mexican beach gang.
But Günter doesn’t leave me a choice:
“We have lunch now. But if you have balls I’ll take you to the beach, then get a taxi and get your motor back! You will think of something, I’m sure!”
Of course I have balls. Just I have my doubts that they will be of much use during this operation.
After lunch Günter takes me to the closest beach and I get a taxi back to Playa Delfines, the scene of this morning’s defeat, my personal Waterloo. I pay the taxi driver half of the agreed price and ask him to wait for me. It wouldn’t take more than half an hour, one way or the other.
Behind the Curtain of Hostility
As I walk down the dunes I have a perfect view on the scene. Officially the beach is still closed so there are no civilians, just my enemy and me. Perfect for an honorable standoff, no collateral damages, only combatants. Just the numbers make me worry: I count eleven opponents. So I sure wouldn’t win this by muscle power, also I am sure my fire power is to my disadvantage. I don’t know theirs but I know mine is zero.
But I have the element of surprise to my advantage and I figure they don’t want too much noise among the hotels. This is where they recruit their rip-off victims. Also I am mad and pumped with adrenaline which makes me unpredictable. So all in all I think the odds are about even.
At first nobody pays attention as I descend the dunes towards the beach. But as I come closer they see and recognize me, staring at me like at a ghost. Where there was chatter, talking and laughter all of a sudden there is silence and tension and all twenty-two eyes follow every single one of my movements.
I try to make out that fat man, the boss. And there I see him, sitting in a camping chair in the shade of a beach pavilion. In normal no-COVID times tourists would get their sun-screen-soaked bodies treated by swift hands here. It would smell of sun screen and oil, soap and vacation. Now it is the boss’s headquarters. It smells of sweat, garlic and chilies. I enter the chief’s tent through a curtain of hostility.
I walk straight up to him. I am a friend of words, I am writing essays after all. But this time I keep it short and sweet. Ok, perhaps not too sweet and admittedly neither exceedingly friendly nor particularly diplomatic:
“Hey asshole, where is my motor?”
His surprised face couldn’t be more real. A great actor! I wouldn’t want to play poker with him. But the game already started. Can’t bail out anymore at this point.
“Which motor, amigo?,” he asks with a conciliatory smile.
“I am not your amigo and I want my motor back now, you d… sucking mother f… son of a b…,” I didn’t even make the effort to show a poker face. As my Spanish is not good enough yet for impressive swearing, I spice it up with some English. Not too sure if he understands the details of the sexual abnormalities they imply for him to be involved in but I am sure he gets the point.
“I don’t know anything about your motor. But let me help you, amigo.”
“Has anyone seen my friend’s motor?,” he raises his voice so that the entire gang can hear it.
Everybody is shaking their heads in perfectly synced choreography, some with a smirk.
Learning From the Godfather
I am desperately outnumbered but I am mad and I am pumped. I walk up to where all his jetskies are lined up. I know that they leave them there overnight, just covered with a piece of canvas.
I jump on the newest model, patting it tenderly, like a horse:
“Maybe it would help your memory if I burn down one of your jetskies?,” I address the boss with my sweetest, most loving, tender voice.
“Maybe two, you never know. You took my motor but you left me my two jerrycans of gasoline. That would make a fantastic beach fire, don’t you think? Let’s meet again tomorrow, maybe you’ll remember my motor, then?”
“No, no tranquilo and no amigo. Let’s get this straight. We’ll be friends again as soon as I got my motor back but until then, I gonna torch your jetskies, one after another, night by night,” I jump off the saddle.
Despite all the tension I must smile amused as I picture his face waking up with the charred handlebar of his favorite jetski next to him in his bed. The Godfather would be proud of me! Also I am grateful he is renting out jetskies and not horses.
He smiles his most innocent smile and says:
“Hey, I now do remember your motor but we brought it to your boat, didn’t we?!”
“Well, that’s a progress but nope, you didn’t. You brought me to my boat but not my motor. Don’t try to bullshit a bullshitter!”
Then I make out the kid who was my driver this morning:
“Hey, do you remember me?”
“Do you remember bringing me to my boat?”
“Good. Now do you remember bringing my motor to my boat?”
“Hmm, you need to talk to my boss.”
“I am talking to you. Do you remember bringing my motor to my boat?”
“Please! Talk to my boss!,” he pleads splattering.
That is confession enough for me. I go back to the boss:
“Listen, we can do this the hard way. I torch your bar, your jetskies and I swear to all Maya gods, I will turn this beach into a battlefield as Cancún has not seen it before. I have friends who just love this stuff.,” comes my convincing bluff.
“And honestly, I would enjoy this, too. (I actually really would!) Maybe I lose, but do you want to take that risk for a ridiculous 3 HP outboard motor? Do you really want a war? Or, we’ll be all reasonable and friends again. And you will never hear from me again and you can keep ripping off gringos in peace until the end of time.”
Then I decide to play the Germany card. I know that many Mexicans secretly admire Germany for the hard time we gave the Americans in WWII.
“We Germans have neither conscience nor remorse. You better not upset a German. We keep our words. We don’t play. Go play with the gringos, they are easier prey anyway. Doesn’t this sound appealing?”
He walks a few steps towards another closed beach bar. One of those that has swings instead of chairs. He sits on a swing and waves me to take the swing beside him. He is thinking. This is a good sign.
I sit down and he offers me a beer. It is cold. I can see drops of condensate running down the can. Despite being German I don’t like beer but for the sake of the negotiation I take it and open the can. So we sit a while, swinging, sipping our beers, watching out into the ocean, like year-long best buddies hanging out, having a good time.
The rest of the crowd remains in respectful distance, eyeballing us. The open hostility is gone but the tension is tangible.
The boss is still thinking. I see what he wants. He wants a solution that doesn’t make him lose his face, and he doesn’t want a big fuss about all this.
Then he obviously has an idea:
“Amigo, didn’t you tell us to take care of your motor and to keep it for a while until you’d be back?”
Smart guy after all. So I play along:
“Absolutely. And now I am back and would like to pick it up. And if you did what we agreed you’d do, I’d certainly consider a tip,” I bluntly offer a ransom.
He smiles. I smile. Finally we are talking the same language. Two battle-experienced street-smart bullshitting field marshals preventing WWIII with a trick. The leaders of the world could learn from us. No one needs to die. All it takes are two swings, two beers and the will to find a solution.
We keep drinking our beers, swinging relaxed. We even do some small talk. He shows me photos of his wife and his kids on his smartphone. Sweet family. Maybe this fat arrogant asshole is a nice guy in his civilian life. We agree on 1000 pesos tip. Then he makes a phone call and two guys carry my motor and, as a bonus, my little manual drainage pump and carefully put them down on one of the beach lounges.
We shake hands. “Amigos?” “Amigos!“ We hug. We bump our fists. The ultimate gesture of peace and understanding.
The Last Stand
“You need to leave this beach now,” an unfriendly voice barks at me from behind. I turn my head into the direction of that voice and ask the boss “Now who is this clown?”
“He is the park ranger,” he replies visibly annoyed. That was not planned.
I have my doubts, though. The “park ranger’s” uniform looks like he bought it in a carnival store and he clearly doesn’t have the authority of an official. Also I saw him cleaning one of the jetskies earlier. My personal guess is that this guy plays the park ranger whenever one of the gringos they want to rip off makes trouble. And this time the boss was just too late to let him know the beach poker was over.
He builds up in front of me and says:
“This beach is closed to the public and you have to leave now.”
“I am finishing my beer and then I leave these holy grounds for good – with my motor. Relax!”
“You will need to prove to me that this is your motor!”
“If you clown can show me a valid ID I will prove to you that I am the emperor of the united kingdom of Mexico and Germany but until then, I am not longer talking to you at all.”
The boss gives him a reluctant nod and he sets off and returns with a piece of paper in a plastic foil. He awkwardly presents it to me. In an unexpected, rapid move I rip it out of his hands, look at it for a glance and then I lose it. I just cannot help it. I start laughing and simply cannot stop. Laughing so hard I fall off my swing and into the sand. Grasping for air I get back on my feet and sit down on my swing again.
That was just the worst fake ID I have ever seen. The photo was a selfie shot, the ID No. was a row of zeros and the Mexican flag was printed the wrong way, like inverted. So, not green, white, red but red, white, green with the eagle and the snake upside down. I mean for Christ’s sake, they could have put just a little more effort into this!
When I finally have enough air to talk again I hand the boss 500 pesos:
“You just lost half of your tip. I am sorry. No, I’m really not, but if you want to have my advice as an amigo: You better invest it in some better fake IDs!”
Then I stand up, take my motor and my pump and climb up those steep dunes to the parking lot. I hold the motor in my arms like a baby, damn heavy. I resist the urge to relocate that massive bastard. I won’t give them that satisfaction. I also resist the urge to turn around. If they want to kill me now they have to cowardly shoot me in the back.
But Mexicans are too proud to do that. Also I don’t think any of them is such a good shot anyway. However, I am a bit surprised as I make it to the parking lot with no bullets in my back. The taxi is still waiting for me.
The only worries I have now are if I would remember all the details for my story until my damaged arms would be able to hold a pen again.