May 8th was Mother’s Day in the USA and May 10th is Mother’s Day in Mexico. We decided to skip the crowds on both days and celebrate it on May 9th. I was able to plan out a great day; having a massage while the girls were at Spanish school, then spending some time as a family at lunch, then a movie, then some light shopping and wrapping it up with dinner. Es bueno!
The plan worked perfectly until we got to the movie theater. We went to the nice VIP theater in town, with recliner seats and a waiter who serves you in your seat with a full restaurant menu. It’s such a swanky theater that when you buy your tickets you pick your seats on the touch screen computer. The clerk suggested 4 seats in row C and we agreed. But once we got into the theater we realized that was too close to the screen. We had misunderstood where the movie screen was in relation to the bottom or the top of the computer screen we were looking at. So instead of being 3 rows from the back, we were 3 rows from the front.
So I went back out to the clerk and asked her to change our seats to row G. She and I conferred on which ones we wanted (and we couldn’t get 4 seats in a row, so we got 2 on one side of the theater and 2 on the other side). We were just about to finish the transaction when the clerk said she needed to get her manager. OK, no problem.
Señor Manager comes over and hears of the situation and then proceeds to mumble his way through some long explanation. I understood “systema” and “no puede”. “Que?”, I said. He mumbles again, for a long time. HUH? I swallow my pride and ask him to repeat himself AGAIN, meanwhile the line grows behind me. He mumbles some more and I finally admit the obvious, that Spanish is not my first language and I just don’t understand him. This is very frustrating because I really can speak Spanish. I have navigated our way through police stops and internet
hookups installations and home repairs eight ways from Tuesday. But I only understood “system” and “can’t” from this man’s lecture, so I was forced to fill in the gaps. So I said (in Spanish) “Are you telling me I can’t change my seats?”
“Yes, Señora, as I told you, the system cannot do it. You have to do it 2 hours before the show starts.”
“You were not open 2 hours before the show starts and I just bought my tickets 3 minutes ago.”
“The system cannot change your seats,” the manager reiterates.
[Note: in Mexico “the system” seems to be the blame for a lot of things that can’t happen, especially when it comes to returns or exchanges. In Panama it was “no hay” – there is none – but in Mexico the party line seems to be “the system can’t”.]
So now I’m just pissed. I start ranting. In my head I’m sure I’m saying something eloquent like this:
“So you mean to tell me that here I am in the nicest theater in Cancun, paying a premium to sit my gringa butt into nice leather chairs, with personalized VIP waitstaff service from the comfort of my beautiful leather recliner, and yet I cannot exchange my seats that I chose 3 minutes ago?????? You’re telling me that the SYSTEM cannot change these seats? And yet, I am human and I want new seats, that indeed are available to me, but the SYSTEM is preventing it. Is this what is really happening here?”
But in my Spanish and in my extreme irritation at this point it probably came out something like:
“I pay many for ticket in movie, why system no can’t move the seat for themselves, I pay 3 minutes passed hour, now wanted new seats, why¿”
I can only hope it was better than that but honestly in the heat of the moment the last thing you are thinking about is if you conjugated your verb correctly.
Now let me take a minute to say how UNLIKE me this is. Those of you who know the American Allison, you might think “I can imagine her doing this.” But you haven’t seen the even more doe-eyed Foreigner Allison. I consider myself a guest in this country. It’s like I am sitting in some stranger’s living room, not invited, but I’m still sitting here anyway. I try to blend in as much as humanly possible. I never want to make trouble for my hosts and certainly never want to do anything that would appear as if I don’t 100% love every waking moment I am here. So for me to get mad at the manager, well, it’s just not like The New Me (note: The New Me is exhausted and probably needs meds for this).
So the manager and I face off and I finally ask for a refund for my tickets, which he says he will give me after he helps the people in line behind me. I say I need to go get my family, who are waiting in the theater. I walk a few feet away and decide that I’m not done here, that I worked hard on my day and this is just not the way it is supposed to go. I go back to him and in my head I say something like:
“It’s MY Mother’s Day. We chose to celebrate it today so I could fully enjoy it without the crowds. We chose this theater and this movie because we knew it would be a good experience. I am telling you, I want my seats changed and don’t tell me the system can’t do it, I don’t care.”
But I’m sure it was something like:
“I be day of mother, want good day of today, seats need change now!”
Doesn’t really matter how it came out, he said “I will make an exception”. Yes!! I guess you will make an exception for the angry gringa who is starting to make a scene and has now pulled The Mother Card. So we chose the new seats in row G that I wanted all along and off I went to join my family in the theater with the comfy seats.
Note to future movie go-ers at the VIP theater in Cancun: row C is a little too close to the screen.