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. To start reading from the beginning, scroll down.
At this point you might be asking: Didn’t you say there would be twelve parts? Aren’t you rewriting history?
Well, amigo, as I’ve been posting these installments, I’ve also been editing. Cutting the fatty out of the patty. Twelve became ten. The essay is better for it. You say you feel cheated? You want your two weeks? I know one way to get two weeks. Buy a timeshare.
Now back to the story.
The Low Season
Part Seven: The Mayan Palace
Eyder’s dented Nissan bolts through the streets of Old Town. I’m up front with him, and Kate’s alone on the torn back seat. We speed past street vendors shouting, Bebidas! Frescos! and kids in starched-stiff school uniforms—laughing boys with clip-on ties and cool girls with white knee socks. Wiry men in work boots emerge from hardware stores fronted with spools of colorful rope and chrome-plated chain. Eyder is telling me that he used to manage a restaurant but quit to work as a tout. The pay is better. He downshifts to pass a slow-moving rental, and the painted store signs streak kaleidoscopic in my peripheral vision.
Kate rolls down her window. In the sideview I see her face. Pretty. Determined. I crank my window down too. Now I’m closer to the people, to the sounds, to the many and varied snatches that will settle in my memory. These are the souvenirs Kate and I will bring home from our travels. But as Eyder hustles us from angular, street level Viejo Vallarta toward curvilinear, towering Nuevo Vallarta, I keep this in mind: we’re not traveling anymore. We’re here to conduct a simple transaction—money for time. We’re here to say one word and one word only.
Eyder hands us off to Steve, the sales pro who will serve as emissary of the Mayan Palace. Then he rolls the Nissan around the resort’s circular driveway, waving goodbye out the window.
I miss Eyder. I feel close to him. We’re co-conspirators, both in it for the money, our motives neatly aligned. The thirty-something Steve, with his open collar and fat stainless watch, is in it for the money too, but it’s our money he’s after, just as we are out for his. Motives colliding.
Now Eyder is speeding back to Old Town, and for the next ninety minutes every Mexican we see will be at our service in some way—pushing a dish cart, filling a water glass, cutting the Bermuda grass.
Steve leads us through the lobby, explaining that he just moved to Puerto Vallarta from Vegas. He has the look of a croupier, of a man used to settling debts—slick hair, silk shirt. He goes out of his way to tell us he’s not a salesman. “We don’t need salesmen here anyway,” he says, “because these properties sell themselves.” He stops. Turns to me. “I like to think of myself as an educator, Joe. Here to help you make an informed decision.”
Kate says she’s impressed by how tasteful the décor is. And there is something in the understated elegance of the lobby—streamlined, restrained, in stark contrast to the salt-water-taffyness of the Premier Vacation Club—that is truly impressive.
I’m staring over Steve’s shoulder at an enormous black pool. I wonder aloud why nobody is swimming on such a nice day.
“Oh, no,” Steve says. Then he lets out a chuckle and starts walking again. “That’s a reflecting pool. Just for decoration. We’ve got two swimming pools down by the beach.”
I look at Kate and mouth the words: reflecting pool?
“But, hey.” Steve says, turning toward us, walking backwards. “There’s no sense just talking about it. How about I show you instead?”
I check my watch. Ninety minutes…starts…now. Seven minutes to load up the complementary breakfast plates (two minutes each to the omelet and carving stations, two minutes to run through the buffet, and one to order juice and coffee). Twenty minutes to chew and swallow. Ten minutes for coffee refills and extra croissants. Five minute stroll back toward the residential area. Fifteen minute explanation/demonstration of different room types (Master Room/Suite/Master Suite). Ten minute discussion of pros and cons (there aren’t any cons) of buying optional golf package. Fifteen minute walk back to poolside, stopping to check out the various on-site dining and boutique shopping options.
Ninety minutes later, we’re sitting in Steve’s office, and he’s leaning back in his chair asking, “So what do you think? Does this sound like something you might be interested in?”