“It’s like Mr. Roger’s neighborhood..!!”
I have said that phrase on many occasions during my stay in Playa del Carmen. I have exclaimed it to my friends in the states and to tourists I met in Playa del Carmen. Everyone there was always so friendly. And chatty. I never felt scared walking home at night. And I walked home a lot of nights since I had left my car back in Chicago. If you didn’t have the right change at the store, they would tell you to bring it the next day. Playa del Carmen definitely had a small town feel – a Mr. Roger’s neighborhood feel.
And those words were never more true than on New Year’s Day 2011. I had spent New Year’s Eve with my boyfriend in the center of Playa del Carmen. So many people and music and fireworks. It had been a blast..!! So I was enjoying a lazy New Year’s Day at home since my boyfriend had gone to work. At about noon, I got a text from him saying that his restaurant had run out of ice..!! He wanted to know if I could run out and get 10 bags of ice plus the receipt (for reimbursement). And I said “ok – sure.”
As I left the house I was thinking to myself how peculiar. I was so used to working for a big corporation and there was no way someone would ever call their novia/o to pick up an item and expect a reimbursement..!! There would be too many forms to fill out and too many i’s to dot and t’s to cross. But not in Playa!!
Now you are probably wondering what would make a restaurant run out of ice. Well this particular restaurant was near the beach. And that time of year, one of the beach clubs was hosting the BPM festival. It is a 10 day celebration of music..!! It brings the world’s best DJ’s to the beautiful Riviera Maya. And that brings tourists. Thirsty tourists. Hungover tourists. All wanting micheladas, cheladas, margaritas..!! All requiring ice..!!
Well needless to say I was on the hunt down for ice. The first two places I went to did not have any ice at all. The third store, just around the corner from my apartment, had 10 bags of ice. I bought them all..!! The owner was very surprised and happy 🙂 He helped me take my bags of ice to the street, so I could hail a cab. Remember, I did not bring my car to Playa. Bummer. So I waited and waited. I hailed and hailed. There were so few taxis and the taxis that did drive by did not stop.
I was contemplating what to do when the owner of the store asked me where I was going with the ice. I told him I was going to the beach which was about 6 blocks away. He offered to drive me and my bags of ice. He even brought his daughter to help us carry the ice. He left his wife and son to watch the store. I was speechless.. And grateful…
So we all piled into the car and off we went. What a madhouse it was by the beach. With all the tourists and the festival – we were not allowed to park in front of the restaurant. So we had to park a block away and walk the bags of ice over. The store owner, his daughter and me hauling 10 bags of ice to my boyfriend’s restaurant. Too funny…And at the same time…too lovely. My boyfriend was impressed that I had managed to bring the ice over with additional help. And so was his manager who reiumbursed me and tipped the store owner.
After the store owner and his daughter left, I stayed and had a drink and enjoyed the music on the beach. But on my walk home, I got to thinking about the day. I was impressed at how a community of neighbors yet strangers got together to make sure that people we didn’t know could enjoy their drinks on the beach and listen to great music while they celebrated the new year. Now I know some of you out there might be cynics and say it was all about business and money. The store owner wanted his ice sold, the restaurant needed ice to sell drinks, etc.. But I was there, I lived it and it didn’t feel that way to me. I remember marveling about the day’s events, feeling good about my new choice for a hometown and singing to myself…”won’t you be my neighbor?”