1984 in Mexico
Pinky was our tour guide. One misty, October morning, my husband and I boarded a ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen with Pinky. The boat was crowded with crates of chickens, Mexican families carrying suitcases and tourists like us...many yellow faced and clutching the railing with motion sickness.
Pinky was probably in his 50's, wearing a red cap pulled tightly over his gray hair. There was something commanding about Pinky as he rattled off instructions in decent English. "I am Pinky. You are my family. You are all brothers and sisters. You are Pinky's family. We stay together. You listen and we have a wonderful time!" Don and I grinned. We like Pinky's style.
On the bus ride to Tulum, Pinky lectured some more. "When we reach the ruins of Tulum there will be rocks to climb. If you fall, Pinky will have to take you to the hospital. The people will have no guide. The trip will be ruined for all. Please be careful as you walk. Thank you." When we reached the magical Mayan ruins I was stunned at the beauty. Rocks and ruins scattered with palms, the blue sea just beyond! Pinky pointed out this lovely spot and said it was the best place to snap a photo.
Posing with the Ruins
I'm surprised we had the nerve to ask Pinky to take our picture when his strict lecture probably didn't allow time for such nonsense. Maybe he was so amused by our short shorts that he couldn't resist!
When he returned to his lecture about the Mayan number system he began to remind me of teachers I've had. I had a history teacher once who knew his material so well he could rattle off dates and historic figures while making a grocery list. But Pinky actually had a passion for the history he shared. In fact he had so much passion he grew exasperated when drilling our group about what we had just learned. "Do you understand?" He shook his head and firmly reminded our group, "People think the Mayan's were primitive, but oh they had such complicated minds!!"
Posing with Pinky
Before we left the ruins I had Don take a picture of me with Pinky. I knew I never wanted to forget this colorful guide. After Tulum we headed off for lunch in an old hotel filled with butterflies and then a swim in a heavenly lagoon...and then there was one last lecture.
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. Your tour covers everything! Lunch, bus ride, tickets to the ruins, everything except one important thing. Your tip to the guide.. That is Pinky. Please do not forget. Give what you feel he deserves."
Thanks, Pinky. Your impatience was slightly intimidating and the way you referred to yourself in third person could have made my eyes roll. You also didn't seem too thrilled about posing in my photo. But I liked you. You worked hard...seven days a week, you said! I think you also worked for many more years because your name pops up on the internet. I liked your name, too! Sure wish I'd asked how you got it!
Update From April 2017
In April, Don and I had a chance to visit Tulum and Chichen Itza, again. Early one morning while waiting for the gates to open at Chichen Itza, I spoke with a few tour guides who remembered Pinky, well. Sadly he passed away a while ago, but they all agreed he was a very well respected man in their world. After talking with the guides and reading blog responses, I wish I could go back in time and take his tour. I enjoyed him then, but how much more I would appreciate him now! Rest in Peace, Pinky!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers