This place is lousy with iguanas. The day I lose the rental car at the resort we’re staying at near Cancun, we drive around in a golf cart for thirty minutes visiting different parking lots. But every couple hundred feet the amiable attendant stops the cart. “Look, an iguana,” she says in perfect English. I guess she expects us to get out and take pictures. But we’ve seen plenty of iguanas by now. We just want to find the gold-colored Toyota minivan with all the pickup of a Hot Wheel powered by two triple A batteries we rented three days ago. It’s in one of these parking lots. I haven’t lost it. Robyn is quick to say, “My husband lost our car,” when she seeks help from the parking attendant. “Misplaced, really,” I note defensively. So, we are rolling around parking lots in the golf cart, checking each one carefully. We approach the last lot on the list for the second time. “Look. It’s an iguana,” our driver says again, slowing to crawl. “Lovely,” we say. I know she wants us to be more excited about iguanas. We can’t see the appeal at the moment. We just want to spot our elusive gold-colored minivan, a species that seems all but extinct.
When we find the minivan, we all climb in grumpily and drive off to Playa del Carmen. Some of the more confusing Mexican road rules get abused slightly on the way. Alto means stop in Spanish. We did learn that. But Alto really seems to be more of a mild suggestion than a rule from what we can tell from watching other drivers. At a roundabout, we spot a sign that says Alto Total, which confirms that Alto essentially means “stop if you feel like stopping,” whereas Alto Total means “really think very seriously about stopping.” We find our way to a parking spot. Then we start trudging along the streets where every vendor calls out to us, each one more loudly and persistently than the last. “Keep your head down and your eyes ahead,” Robyn advises. “Don’t look them in the eye.” It’s awfully tough to see the sights in this manner. Once you have seen about one block of the shopping district, you know what’s coming on the next block. There’s a t-shirt store on this side. On the other side is a store that sells sandals and sunglasses. There’s a bar and a few restaurants over there. Some nifty wind-chimes and dream-catchers over here. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Don’t make eye contact.
We go into a store where a couple sit side by side on a bench with their feet immersed in water with small fish swimming around them. A sign explains in English that the fish are great at eating all the dead skin. This makes a certain amount of sense. Some fish are good at removing the impurities from the glass sides of a fish tank. When we get back to the resort, I try to describe the flesh-eating fish to Robyn’s uncle Paul. He’s from Texas, and he’s an avid fisherman. He knows fish. But the concept is strange to him. “Were they piranhas?” Paul asks. “Cause I’m not sticking my feet in with a bunch of piranhas.” I nod. “No, these fish eat the dead skin on the foot. Not the whole foot.”