The Low Season: A Travel Essay in Ten Parts

In Spring 2007 I published an essay called “The Low Season” in The Cimarron Review. It’s the story of how my wife and I paid for a month in Puerto Vallarta with money we made by attending timeshare presentations. Because I now live in Myrtle Beach, a place that exists largely thanks to the vacation industry, the time seems right to revisit the piece. So I’m going to serialize it here. One part every week for ten weeks. Enjoy. And please come back next week. Okay, amigo?

The Low Season

Part One: The Pitch

All you have to do is say no. That’s the whole job. When the sales consultant leans back in his office chair, crosses his manicured fingers behind his head, and says, So what do you think? Does this sound like something you might be interested in? you just say no. One of you. Both of you. Somebody, for Christsakes, say no. And you’ll walk with 3,500 pesos. About 360 dollars. You’ll have bought yourself twelve more days in lovely Puerto Vallarta.

But there’s a catch. Saying no isn’t as easy as it sounds. If saying no were simply a matter of spitting out those two letters, Uncle Sam would have won the war on drugs during the Reagan Administration. Saying no is tough duty. Especially when everything you see—the good Mexican coffee and buttery croissants, the glossy brochure and its four-color photos of “silken, sunlit beaches” and “polished blue waters,” the pie-charts and matrices and spreadsheets, even the legal pad with the sales consultant’s pencil-sketch of a Master Suite floor plan—everything laid out before you on this crystalline-topped table screams, yes!

These people are yes professionals. Every element of their presentation is designed to get a yes out of you, and for you to consummate this liberating, life-affirming yes, this sweet breath of freedom—ah, the relief and resignation that is yes—by signing here and initialing there and there and there and congratulations!

You’ll want to say yes. You’ll want to make the sales consultant happy, proud of you. You’ll want to please him. But you’re doing this for you, he’ll tell you. You deserve this. And it would feel so good, so indulgently right, to say yes. You’d walk arm in arm out of the office, with the sales consultant’s hand on your shoulders like the happy couples in the brochure, and you’d look out the enormous plate-glass windows and—yes!—the sand is silken. Somehow you hadn’t noticed this distinctly silky quality before. The Pacific is the color of…of…sapphires. The beach is lined with swaying palm trees, kissed by warm ocean breezes. Say yes and you’d walk back to your hotel, your plain, pedestrian hotel, looking ahead to a hundred years of luxury, lived two weeks at a time. Imagine it. The two of you. Not just guests, but denizens, no—owners!—of the world class, the five star, the very pinnacle of luxury, the Mayan Palace.

Then you’d fly back to Milwaukee or Akron or Rochester wondering how the hell—with your mortgage and car payments and a bitch of a heating bill—you’re going to swing a $25,000 loan for a Mexican timeshare.

But what if I told you there was another way? A better way. What if I promised to share the secret to how you can fund a not-quite-luxury but still highly serviceable Mexican beach vacation?

It won’t be entirely easy. You’ll have to work for it. You’ll have to say no. No matter what. That’s the job.

So what do you think? Does this sound like something you might be interested in?

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