Our travel luck has run out

My wife and I just got back from a long weekend trip with friends.  We’ve been to the greater Playa del Carmen area of Mexico a bunch of times. We figured that this would be an easy trip.  And for the most part it was.

Hotel Basico, as always, was awesome. The rooftop bar and pool is great. The food is amazing. I’m not sure how they do it, but the fried fish nuggets are amazing. 

Playa, sadly, is slowly being turned into a more rustic Cancun.  It became noticeable last time we went and this time it was all too obvious. More stumbling drunk idiots and more chain stores. This is not a good trend.

For a change of pace, we headed down to Tulum to check things out there. Overall, we liked the area. There is, however, a fundamental problem with area’s value proposition. Most of the hotels are on the water and are rustic.  We had some very serene moments just watching the waves roll in.  But that being said, the price per night for one of these hotels seems to average about $170. That just is too high a shower whose pressure resembles a Windex bottle and a room that lacks A/C.  At $100 or less, the value prop works, but I just have a hard time paying for what I know to be a glorified back packer flophouse. (And in case you think I am being a snob, I have spent many a night in low budget hotels around the world and loved them. Much love to Archie’s House.)

So our travel luck…

On any trip there will be some hiccup along the way, but nothing that cannot be accomodated. On this trip there were three.  First up, Sunday was Day Light Savings in Mexico. Who knew? Clearly we didn’t but, apparently, the hotel staff did but neglected to mention it. A bit of frantic pre-coffee thrashing about but I’ve done worse. We had planned on leaving an hour earlier than usual to grab some breakfast back in Playa so the time change didn’t throw us off too badly.

Second up – on the way to the highway and north to Playa, the check engine light goes on in our rental. Thinking that it is just a gas cap related, and frankly having no other options, we pushed on. Then the engine light started blinking. The car started to shake when I gave it the slightest amount of gas. And then it died at a stop light.

Plane leaves in 3.5 hours. We are 1.5 hours away. Car, though not smoking, was not in a good way. Clock’s ticking.

There’s a Hertz kilometer so behind us and so we coax and cajole the car back there. Sunday morning at 7:30, I am not expected anyone to be there.

But there was! And at this point I must credit my friend L. She is a fluent Spanish speaker. But how many non-native speakers are familiar with automotive vocabulary? So L conveys the situation. The staff were amazingly helpful. Within twenty minutes we were rolling again.

Thus far we have dodged about as much trouble as one would expect to encounter on a trip. But you know me better than that. The next thing we had to deal with was bigger than the first two combined.

North of Playa, we get pulled over by the Municipal Police. Again, L to the rescue. But how many non-native speakers know how to talk their way out of a speeding ticket? According to the slightly pudgy cop (or at least the guy in the cop uniform) I was speeding. And according to him there are two things by which the police cannot abide: speeding and drinking (I think he meant drunk driving). He referred to me as “Speedy Gonzalez.”  He might as well been reading from the “Guide to fleecing tourist” handbook.

Did he mention how fast I was going? No.

Did he point out the speed limit? No.

But did he know enough American culture to refer to me as Speedy Gonzalez. Of course he did.

And what happened next was he said that my driver’s licenses, and me, had to go a half an hour away to be processed. (Keep in mind that downtown Playa del Carmen was, at most, 15 minutes away.) This option didn’t see so appealing.

L, smartly, asked if there was another way to deal with the fine for speeding. Our friendly overfed constabulary said there was. We could pay the fee right there by the roadside. The only problem was that he didn’t have a receipt to give us, but if we didn’t mind we could jsut pay him anyway. Sure, whatever. Amazingly enough, Mexico fines speeders in US dollars… $200 to be exact.

$200. Think of your last speeding ticket. If you got hit for $200, you were likely doing over 80 with up to, but not exceeding, 2 pedestrians squished on your hood.  $200 for doing, at most 10 km/k over the limit in a 100 km/h zone, seemed a tad excessive.

We didn’t have $200 on hand and weren’t really in the mood to part with that much scratch, L pressed on and asked what the fine would be pesos.  You know pesos – the currency of the country in which we were currently pulled over by Officer Hada Couple O’Churros. And so he starts to write on his hand and comes up with a figure 2000 pesos.  The exchange rate was in our favor but 2000 was way more than we had.

How about 1200 pesos?

Ok. Let’s just keep this between us.

Sure officer. Have a nice day.

And just like that we had just negotiated our “speeding ticket” down to $75. We even paid him. Now I asked you, how many non-native speakers know how to bribe pay a speeding ticket to the police officer by the side of the road? This is not a set of phrases they teach you in your high school Spanish textbook.

(BTW, I’ve heard from a reliable source that you offer 100 pesos and go up from there. Live and learn.)

So this threesome of troubles combined with the far larger Thailand affair has got me thinking that our travel luck has run out. For nearly 10 years we have had flawless travel luck. Best room in all of San Sebastian, for free – sure. First hand account of the brutality the Khmer, told quietly, honestly while sitting in traffic in Siem Reap – a treasured memory. An unplanned side trip to a family olive farm – a lovely surprise. I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had more than our share of lucky breaks on the road. I’ve got to face it – we used up our good travel karma and now have to pay back the debt.

Not that that is going to keep us from traveling. I mean what’s the worst thing that could happen to us when we hike the Inca Trail this summer… on second thought, don’t answer that.

The beginning of the beginning: our privacy report publishes

Over the last 6 or so months, Bob Blakley and I have been doing a lot of listening and thinking about privacy.  To successfully re-launch our privacy coverage, we needed to lay a wide foundation that would serve to support future research.  We needed to provide a meaningful starting point for our customers.  Since our customers’ jobs are not typically focused on privacy, we needed to start with a form of first principles and build outward. 

I’ve learned that it is generally frowned upon to use the second person in our reports – too informal I am told.  Use the blog if you want to address the audience directly.  Normally, I don’t have a problem avoiding the second person, but this report proved to be a challenge.  We had to work hard not to write without using “you.”  And why was that? Privacy discussions are and must be inclusive.  They involve each of us on a far more personal level than a discussion of, say, account lifecycle management.   Cognizant of privacy implications or not, the decisions you make on a daily basis have effects the privacy of your customers and partners.

Because privacy is personal, because it requires concerted behavior throughout the enterprise, discussions about privacy must include everyone.  You.  Me.  Everyone. To guide concerted behavior, in our recently released privacy report, we put forth a Golden Rule as a means of developing and evaluating privacy principles leadings to practices and behaviors:

We protect privacy when we consider the dignity of individuals about whom we know things, and when we use what we know about them only in ways which preserve and enhance that dignity.

This report is by no means the end of our exploration of privacy – it is just the beginning.  We will continuing the conversation this July, at Catalyst North America, in the “Privacy Risks Get Real” track.  We are working hard to ensure that these discussions reflect the inclusive nature of privacy.  We’ll be exploring privacy concerns across multiple domains: from healthcare to higher education.  Finally, to sweeten the deal, we have worked with the International Association of Privacy Professionals to get some of the tracks at Catalyst approved for Continuing Privacy Education credits.  We are looking forward to continuing the privacy conversations with all of you this July!

Speaking of Catalyst, we have special surprise for IdPS blog readers… Since it is Easter egg hunting season, we’ve placed a couple of them on the Catalyst web site. The prize inside is a super discount code to attend Catalyst. To find the eggs, go to the conference web site and do this:

  • Hover (but don’t click) over the “San Diego” icon for 20 seconds


  • Click and hold on the Catalyst logo and then drag your mouse off and release

Register right away – this discount is limited to 50 users and could disappear at any time!

(Cross posted from the Identity Blog @ Burton Group.)