Trip to Mexico starts with comedy of errors

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We landed Thanksgiving Day in Cancun for our daughter’s destination wedding and, after shuffling through customs, headed to baggage claim.

I stood to the side next to our carry-ons while my husband and son retrieved our two checked bags — mine a nondescript black one recognizable by a frayed red ribbon tied to the handle.

A police dog wandered among the crowd, casually sniffing at bags, his handler following alongside. The dog stopped near my husband Jim’s carry-ons. I’m the only one standing there, so he asks me if they’re my bags.

I’m so surprised I’m not even nervous. After all, I know we’re not packing any contraband, right?

I clarify they’re my husband’s bags (Jim is still at the carousel). The guard asks if there is any food in the bags. I say, “Yes, snacks.”

Jim turns and the guard asks him. I’m pretty sure the guard said “food” again, but Jim heard “fruit” and so answered “No, no fruit” and pulls out a bag of nut mix to show him.

The guard asks, “How about meat?”

At this point, Jim pulls out a Ziploc of jerky.

The guard smiles.

“We don’t allow meat into the country unless it’s in its original, unopened package. I am sorry but you cannot keep that,” he tells him. Jim hands over the jerky.

The guard asks Jim if he has any more. Jim says, “I’m not sure what I brought.” He rummages again into the depths of his backpack and pulls out another bag of jerky!

Let me just say it’s a bit disconcerting when you’re in a foreign country and a drug-sniffing security dog is paying attention to your bags. But the guard doesn’t even raise an eyebrow, collects the second bag of jerky, thanks us, apologizes again, and he and his dog walk away.

Unfortunate … but not tragic.

Undaunted, the three of us head outside the terminal with all our bags, sans jerky, in tow, and eagerly board our transfer van for the 30-minute ride to the resort.

About 20 minutes down the road Jim gets a text message asking if he might have a suitcase that isn’t his.

Scam, I’m thinking. Foreign country. Ignore.

Then his phone rings as he’s texting back, “I don’t’ think so.” A second text reads “I have yours. It has a tag that reads Jim Marino. It’s black with a red ribbon.”

Luke has now climbed over the seats to the back of the van where our luggage is stowed, verifies that Jim had grabbed the wrong suitcase and, indeed, we have someone else’s.

What then transpired was a farce on par with a Marx Brothers movie.

We try to urgently relate in fractured Spanish to our driver, who speaks little English, that we have to return to the airport to exchange a bag. Our driver, of course, isn’t understanding completely, yet responds as if he does — and keeps driving.

Meanwhile, the travelers who have our bag are holding up a group of 30 bus passengers from getting to their Cancun hotel.

Finally the driver gets our drift and pulls to the side of the road. He makes three calls and waits for a return call each time. We wait. He hands his cellphone to Jim, who further explains our predicament to his boss, then hands the phone back to the driver who waits for authorization. We wait some more.

Jim finally persuades the driver to take off toward the airport … at last he does … the slowest driver on the road.

Meantime, we suggest to the guys with our suitcase to let their party go ahead so the entire busload doesn’t have to wait for the doofus Marinos. I tell Jim to ask them what they look like, what they’re wearing. We tell them I’m wearing a turquoise dress.

At the terminal I leap from the van and finally find two guys by the cantina outside the airport standing next to a suitcase with a red ribbon. Pointing like a nerd with both hands to my turquoise dress, I exclaim, “It’s me!”

They break out into broad smiles.

I tell them they’re the nicest guys in the world.

They say, “It’s OK! We’ve been coming here for years!”

When the only suitcase left on the carousel also had a tattered red ribbon they figured we must have picked up theirs by mistake.

They were so forgiving. So kind. So happy just to be in Mexico!

We switched suitcases, shook hands with these great guys from Orem, Utah, palmed them some dinero for their trouble and headed in opposite directions to the rest of our respective vacations — they north to Cancun and we south to a dream destination wedding with family and close friends to celebrate the love story of our daughter and son-in-law.

Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or

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