And then I thought that maybe your Closers walked among us, incognito, like an alien or a spy, waiting for the right moment to pounce, because I never knowingly met one.
It was a blow, really, to my perceived journalistic and observational talent. One afternoon, a bit forlorn about the whole thing, I took Max for a walk on the grass in front of your ocean-front buffet. Max scampered toward a man. I chased after him. The man asked if we wanted to see a really big iguana. Now, that might’ve turned into a bad joke at, say, the lobby bar of a Marriott, but there really was a really big iguana sunning herself on a rock, here in Mexico.
As Max stared, mesmerized, at the reptile, the man and I got to talking. A French Canadian, he said he was, from Montreal. So I began to recite for him the French that Carole taught me while we were dating, just before I met her family in Paris. Translated: “I cannot eat spicy food because it makes me hiccup. My girlfriend is very spicy but she does not make me hiccup.”
These words were significant because a) they were true, b) at the time they constituted my entire knowledge of the French language, and c) they got me through an entire—and successful—week of meeting Carole’s family. The rest of the time I mostly just smiled like Stan Laurel, slightly befuddled and the better alternative to crying over the bizarrity of life around us. Me and Stan Laurel.
And here at the Occidental Grand Xcaret, sitting before me, enjoying the sun and the wind, keeping tabs on the iguanas, finally, is my Closer. I have met The Occidental Closer, and the entire brief experience was—and still remains—my great pleasure.
His name is Normand. Right away he tells me that he also hiccups when eating spicy food. Right away, we have established connection. And right away he begins to encourage me to visit Montreal. (RCI, the resort group to which you belong, has eight properties in and around Montreal and another eight in the Province of Quebec.)
Normand cites the restaurants, the culture, the museums, the Montreal Jazz Festival, “where only three people have been killed in its entire history,” he says proudly. A bit of a stretch of a major selling point, but with festival now in its 30th year, one death every 10 years or so really is pretty low; my chances of survival, I calculate, would be excellent.
His pitch continues the next evening, our last at the Occidental, where we join Normand and his brother at Le Buffet for dinner. He’s brought a bottle of wine; we’ll have two more before the night is over. The thing is: I don’t mind in the least that he’s pitching Montreal to us. I want to visit Montreal, especially now, after spending such lovely time with Normand, a Closer par excellence, and his brother, who are not in your purview because they are not employed by the Occidental hotel group. They’re guests, very different from us, but guests, just like us.
Our rhythm of conversation is instantaneous. Topics are free flowing. We talk of music and literature and movies, the Occidental, the nature of time shares. Normand tells us how he became a quadriplegic (car crash, July 1980, 11 years, he says, after Neil Armstrong first walked on the Moon), how he spends much of his time with various groups promoting auto safety, how, a year before his accident, he bicycled from Vancouver down to San Diego.
How monumental and bittersweetly satisfying, Blanca, to have accomplished such a thing a year before losing the ability to walk.
And he’s funny as hell.
Rather than selling, Normand has engendered something far more lasting, endearing, valuable: by sheer presence, bonhomie, and gift of gab, he’s bound us in friendship. Our mutual commission is a time share of stories and commonalities and discovery, an organic interaction based on the pressureless desire to communicate.