Mom just emailed me. She is alive and in a very nice hotel. Thank you, thank you. I guess now I have to give back the pink shirt I took from her room this afternoon to wear on the plane. I guess you can’t have everything. She wrote:

Subject: Storm Mama
I’m in Playa del Carmen for the storm. Travel impossible. Airport closed…buses full. Am at Sahara Hotel. Call or you can email me here until electricity goes. Have money problem. Brought little cash. Credit cards won’t work in most places and my debit card (new) is being refused. Need cash for bus tickets. They don’t take credit cards. I will try to call you when I can.
Love you all, Mom

I remember when I used to devise elaborate ploys to get cash from her… We’ll get her some money if I have to take it there myself. I’m in the mood to go now. I’d like to stay at the Mayan Palace. I’d like to have a word with them. Several, in fact.

Mayan Palace (MP) needs intense customer service training. Mom did indeed go to check in on Saturday like she was supposed to. But they wouldn’t let her check in. Not only did they refuse to let her check in, they were throwing all the other guests out.

The technical term is "evacuating in the face of the oncoming storm." Alas, that implies a certain amount of compassion. At the very least assistance, charity, goodwill. Like making sure the human beings so far from home have someplace ELSE safe to stay and some way to get there. Do Key West hotels evacuate their guests by yelling "Get out, the bar’s closed" like we used to do at the end of a night bartending? That’s the picture mom painted: "You gotta go. Where you stay is your problem. Travel safe." Chaos and indifference.

The critical detail over the last 48 hours (is that all?) that caused us the most panic was the fact that she had not shown up at the Mayan Palace. She had not called, had made no contact, had allowed her reservation, that she’d held for at least six months and flew into an oncoming storm to keep, to be canceled because she was a no-show. So not mom. So not logical.

I had called every hour from 2pm Saturday till midnight, then twice more Sunday morning. Each time, they said SHE HAD NOT CHECKED IN. As if they WERE checking people in. But they weren’t. They were essentially closed. Why the charade? We don’t get this at all.

So early Saturday afternoon, she was dismissed from the hotel with her backpack, her purse, no place to go, very little cash and a credit card. She hadn’t taken a lot of cash, little old lady traveling alone and all. At the MP, you don’t need cash, they don’t accept cash, only credit cards. Turns out, they are practically the only ones on the Yucatan that do. Mom took a bus to Playa – where all the hotels are sheltering guests who can’t get out – and walked around till she found a hotel that accepts credit cards: the Sahara Hotel. It is lovely, new, concrete, not on the ocean, sturdy. And gringo-owned so language is not a difficulty. Perfect.

Everyone else was evacuating to Villa Hermosa, farther south on the ocean. Which is where the storm is now headed. During Andrew in 1986, everyone in Key West evacuated to Homestead and south Miami. Which is where Andrew hit. Nothing happened in Key West, not even a drizzle. Hurricanes are unpredictable. Dean is supposed to hit sometime early morning Tuesday. Who knows where it will hit? It could stall in the Caribbean – plenty have done that. It could turn north to Cuba… all this stuff depends on lows and highs above and below it, pushing it around. How warm or cold the water is. So many factors that are constantly changing. Anyway.

Mom is good. I talked to her on the phone via beautiful wonderful Skype for $.10 a minute. She is comfortable, she’s safe as she can be. I may have to keep the pink shirt, though. Wear it on the plane for my quick trip to Cancún to shake a few morons at the Mayan Palace. Thank you for sending those vibes. It worked.

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