top of page

Short Story 5: Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

The Domino Effect of Sucky Flights When Traveling

March 2023


Bad travel flights to Mexico


A problem with traveling abroad, being a nomad, or wanderlust/social influencer is that surprises (not the good ones) can come your way before hitting the ground running in another country. Issues with international flights and transportation can put a bad taste in your mouth or even ruin your entire trip. Flying to a foreign country isn’t always stress-free, and your plans can change unexpectedly. This is why in this short story we’ll cover bullshit travel logistics that I experienced when going to a neighboring US country: Mexico.


Sucky Flights (2019)

1.1: Pre-Mexico
Sucky Flights (2019)
1:1: Pre-Mexico

The flight schedule from San Jose, California to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, isn’t too long. If you’ve taken a direct twelve- to sixteen-hour economy flight (it’s not as bad as it sounds), then a seven to eight-hour flight with one or two stops and no layovers can feel like a walk in the park. It’s October 2019. There are no direct flights from San Jose to Merida. One to two stops are the only options. The one-stop and two-stop flights have a big price difference. From looking at the numbers and flight logistics, it makes sense to go with the two-stops option, so I choose the frugal route, regardless that it’s from California to Mexico, not to another continent. Besides, the extra bucks saved from getting cheaper flights will come in handy for day tours, tasty local street food, and a memorable souvenir or two.

Bad travel to Mexico
1.2: Domino 1-2: US
1.2: Domino 1-2: US

At the San Jose airport check-in counter, the representative says the flight from San Jose to Mexico is cancelled, and that no flights are available today. I didn’t receive an email or text message earlier regarding the change. The receptionist gets on the phone while checking her computer. She states that the only flight to Merida, Mexico is at the San Francisco airport leaving in a few hours. The catch is the new schedule consists of three flights: (1) San Jose to Los Angeles, (2) Los Angeles to Mexico City, and (3) Mexico City to Merida. Three flights? Geez! This is a first for me. The airline offers to cover the Uber drive fee since San Jose to San Francisco is about forty-five minutes by car without traffic. After arriving at the San Francisco airport, relieved about being able to catch a flight in less than three hours, the check-in receptionist indicates a problem with my booking. I must go down stairs to speak with a customer service representative before passing through immigration. The other representative down stairs mentions that the San Jose airport made an error on the departure times. She searches her computer and jumps on a call. I’m good to go ten minutes later.

Bad flights when traveling
1.3: Domino 3-6: Mexico City
1.3: Domino 3-6: Mexico City 

The first flight (San Francisco to Los Angeles) is a breeze and less than two hours. However, after the second flight (Los Angeles to Mexico City), things get sticky at the Mexico City airport. First, the check-in counter representative requires me to sign a paper that I cannot get a meal for the Mexico City to Merida flight. I understand her Spanish, but the explanation doesn’t make sense. My purchased airfare includes meals, at least the one I bought before the check-in representative helping me at the San Jose airport made the changes, which resulted in mistakes, according to the San Francisco airport. The Mexican representative is keen on me signing before handing over my boarding ticket, and there is a long line of folks impatiently waiting to check in. Rather than being argumentative and hostile for not getting a tray of lousy airplane food during a three-hour flight, I sign the raggedy paper with a non-readable signature. Plus, I’m carrying a paper bag with a large sandwich that I had got at a food cafe from the previous stop at the Los Angeles airport. Second, after signing the no-food waiver, a Mexican security guard comes toward me with a K-9. The dog zones in on my paper bag hanging from my right hand. The guard asks me in Spanish what’s inside the bag. I mention buying a sandwich at the Los Angeles airport a few hours ago. Her reply is that food outside of Mexico isn’t permitted inside the airport, so she confiscates my large sandwich that I planned to eat before or during the three-hour flight. I was looking forward to chowing down on that sandwich, especially because I signed a dumb no-meal flight agreement less than thirty minutes ago. Not eating for a few hours isn’t going to kill me anyway. I could’ve gone apeshit on her, but what could’ve been the outcome: Getting barked at or bitten by a large K-9 dog? Being taken in for questioning by Mexican airport authorities? Getting a black eye from being a smart ass? Missing my flight because my pride got in the way over a sandwich that I can grab at a Subway restaurant inside the airport? Third, before I pass through the last baggage checkpoint before the boarding gate, I need to make a pit stop to the bathroom. My mind is going all over the place from being up since 4:00 a.m. on four hours of sleep, dealing with airport nonsense, and jittery from having to pee badly. I can’t find the bathroom, so I ask an airport custodian. He tells me it’s downstairs. I go up and down searching, but nothing. Then, I find it about twenty minutes later. Finally, at the last baggage checkpoint, I’m instructed by two Mexican guards to follow them to a secluded area where it’s only them and me. They search my backpack thoroughly while questioning me in Spanish. Other than some vitamin pills inside a case and bottled water, my bag is nearly empty. Perhaps the guards assume I’m a low-level mule for a Mexican drug cartel. I answer the guards’ questions incoherently but calmly and get the green light. My palms are somewhat sweaty. Mexico has a reputation of having corrupt authorities who can turn the other cheek when law breakers or individuals disturbing the peace flash some cash as their get-out-of-jail pass.

Mexico travel story
1.4: Merida

I arrive at the Merida airport close to midnight. I was supposed to land around 7:00 p.m. (better late than never). Hopefully, the airport shuttle driver picks me up since he was notified about the flight change a few hours ago. Half an hour later (it’s 12:15 a.m. now), I’m still faced with a vacant airport parking lot, and there’s no answer from the shuttle driver’s phone after a few attempts. I take a local taxi instead. I get to the hotel at 12:30 a.m., mentally drained and eager to get inside my room and sleep. I was awake for twenty-one hours and three hours away from being legally drunk. The hotel receptionist kindly states a mix-up with my room, and I’ll have to wait fifteen to thirty minutes. I’m biting my tongue; my patience bar is ready to crack, but I remain stoic, surprisingly. The receptionist was prompt about getting my room situated. It helps not to be a jerk or snob. Although Merida is a blast with no problems after I settle in at the hotel, things take another turn back at the Merida airport. The check-in counter representative has a serious look after seeing my ticket and immediately makes a phone call. The conversation feels lengthy and requires an onsite manager to intervene. Checking in gets ironed out after another nerve-wracking wait. At the boarding gate, I get stopped by the desk representative, who says my ticket requires verification due to an undisclosed issue. You’ve got to be kidding me! Again, I maintain composure and let the lady do her job. I receive the go-ahead and board the airplane quickly. I make it to California safe and sound. I never felt so relieved to be back home after traveling abroad and dealing with a sucky flight schedule.

1.4: Domino 7-9: Merida
Travel to Mexico
Related Content

Related Content

See more Short Stories in Phuket (4), Bangkok (3), Shanghai (2), and Langfang (1).

Short Stories

bottom of page