When my wife and I arrived at the all-inclusive resort, we were immediately forced to wear wristbands that rendered our currency worthless. Then a room number was assigned to replace our names. I could feel my identity slipping away.
Dense jungle and the sea surrounded the facility, so escape was impossible. Like Ireland, the resort had palm trees, lots of rain and bad TV. How bad? We ran into newlyweds who were reduced to watching rugby.
After settling in our room, we made our way through the exercise yard to the mess hall. The buffet was bountiful but bland. I didn’t know where they were hiding the real Mexican food but I’ve had spicier nachos at the Forest Park pool.
Speaking of which, the facility had an enormous pool, with submerged barstools. We went instead to the beach. Seaside staff members were smartly dressed in their uniforms, while many of the inmates could not afford an entire swimsuit. I was assigned to a work crew building sand castles.
The work was exhausting in the blistering sun, with incoming waves forcing me to rebuild sections over and over. And I didn’t even take first prize. The only thing that kept me going were the tropical drinks. I guzzled one after another until I was in a pina colada coma. I tried to cool off in the ocean but every time I set foot in it, a school of fish would swirl around my ankles. It was like swimming in an aquarium and I couldn’t help thinking: whose ocean is this, anyway?
Every morning we were forced to report to the excursion director. She offered us chances to escape but they were very expensive.
Day after day we endured the tropical heat, sometimes having to shift our lounge chairs to stay in the shade. At night, we trekked a full 15 minutes to reach the lobby and restaurants. One night, after dinner, we returned to the room and found–this is not for the faint of heart–the maid hadn’t cleaned it yet. I made a panicked call to the front desk for emergency beer and fresh towels.
That night, I found myself losing my language, mumbling cerveza fria, mas cerveza fria until I drifted off.
By the fourth day we were so fried from the beach we made a break for it. The excursion lady offered escape to a nearby golf course. I didn’t care what it cost, as long as I was off the sand castle crew.
The next day, we were able to flee the maximum comfort facility and fly back to Chicago. But like many who have been indoctrinated during confinement, I had fallen in love with my captors and wondered how soon we could go back.