Monday, November 15, 2010

Free vs. not free

I went for a bike ride today, on one of the options our resort offers in their “all-inclusive” program. They have a fleet of poorly-maintained mountain bikes in sizes ranging from really-small to medium. I need a really-big one and the bike they gave me kept my buns far closer to my heels than might have been advisable. Fortunately, they made up for this by giving me a huge helmet that bobbled about on my head like a spaghetti pan.

On the ride I got a real-life demonstration about the way Mexican chivalry works. Our guide was an attractive young woman. I am putty in the hands of attractive young women, so I wasn’t even slightly suspicious when she told me that she’d like to switch bicycles with me at the next stop. I figured she thought her bike might fit me better or something. In fact, however, she had a different reason for proposing this trade. Noticing that I am a strong cyclist and that my bike’s gear shifters worked, she wanted to ride my bike and give me the bike stuck in high gear. This was fine anyway because it still didn’t make the ride in any way challenging, but I found the enforced chivalry certainly amusing.

During this free bike ride, a photographer kept passing us at the rest stops and then taking pictures as we rode past him. He really did get some good photos of me, and I wanted to put one or two of them up on my web site or in this story. Unfortunately, that proved to be out of reach. When I went to the studio to see the photos I learned that the price of putting all photos onto a CD was US$ 220 and the price of buying a single photo would be $15. Apparently some people actually pay these prices, but I’m not one of them.

The other place I ran into not-free this morning was in the little store at our resort. This resort is in the jungle and it’s really difficult to get off of the property. The nearest town is about 15 minutes away by car, and we don’t have one of those. Rather than spend half a day taking a shuttle bus to Playa del Carmen and back, I went to the resort’s store and bought a little tube of sunscreen without bothering to understand how the price converted from pesos to dollars. I was in big trouble when I returned to the room, however, and Alla calculated that I had just paid US$ 23 for it. She took it away from me and exchanged it for another brand that cost a little less. Free is good. Not-free here, however, is really scary.

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