Wednesday, January 6, 2016
We Are Now in Mérida
On Tuesday, my friend Frank and I left for Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. Our flight from Cleveland to Houston was scheduled to leave at about 6 A.M., which meant that we should be at the airport at 4 A.M. From past experience, I doubted that there would be anyone at the airline counter at that hour, but when we arrived at 3:50 A.M. they were indeed turning on the check-in terminals. We did not have to wait long to check-in, and passing through security went smoothly and quickly. I had a bite to eat, and Frank had his requisite fix of morning coffee.
When we got to the gate, to my surprise I had been upgraded to first class. Often I am able to use my frequent flyer status to upgrade my seat to "economy plus", but I have rarely been moved up to first class. Not only did I enjoy a comfortable seat with plenty of legroom, but I was served a rather nice breakfast of quiche with asparagus. Frank, unfortunately was stuck behind in economy class.
We arrived in Houston a half hour early, which only lengthened our five hour layover there. We passed the time by walking around the terminal, having an early lunch, and reading books which we had brought with us. Our flight to Mérida boarded on time, and once again I was upgraded to first class. So Frank was on his own filling out the tourist card and customs form which are handed out on the plane. The customs form was in Spanish, but he managed to complete it with only a couple mistakes.
Upon our arrival in Mérida, I was happy to see that the line to pass through immigration moved much more quickly. In past years, it seemed to take forever to get through immigration. At customs, you have to press a button which will randomly give you either a green light or a red light. If you get a green light you pass through without any inspection of your luggage. I got a green light, but Frank got a red light. So he had to open his suitcases, and a customs official gave them a cursory inspection.
Up this point everything had gone smoothly. After passing through customs, I suggested to Frank that we stop at one of the ATMs in the airport terminal so that he could get some pesos. Prior to the trip, Frank had gone to AAA and obtained one of their VISA Travel Money cards. He tried several times using the bank machines at the airport, and each time he was told that his identification number was incorrect.
I asked him, "Are you sure that you are putting in the correct number?"
"Yes," Frank said. "This is the number that I gave to the lady at AAA to set as my PIN."
We finally gave up, and took a taxi to the house that I had rented. Frank was obviously worried and frustrated. After settling into the house, we called the toll-free for the Travel Money cards. The fellow on the phone was very helpful, and explained that the lady at the AAA office had misled him to think that the PIN had been set. Frank had to do that himself. The gentleman gave Frank instructions on how to set his number over the phone, and said that in 24 hours he would be able to use his card.
So, with that concern taken care of, we were now able to enjoy our first night in Mérida!