The walls of my hotel room looked clean enough as long as the light stayed dim, which was usually the case. The only illumination came from a 40-watt bulb stuck in the ceiling and a high, tiny window.
It was on my fourth day in this hotel room that I learned just what a special window this was. Around 4 in the afternoon – like it was planned by some Mayan astrologer-architect – the sun, the window, and the trees outside aligned in such a way that a beam of light suddenly shot through the room and landed directly on a sign hanging on the door.
The sign read, “Please do not spit on the walls or floors.”
I was kind of taken aback the first time I read it. Was it really necessary? Why would anyone risk stepping in their own hacked-up mess in the middle of the night?
Then I remembered the old adage “you get what you pay for.” This was an 80-peso (about $7) hotel room on the seedy side of Mérida, Mexico. Here, people sometimes spit on the walls and floors of their hotel rooms.
At the 50-peso hotel room a few nights before, the single shared toilet had no seat, there was no hot water, a giant cockroach guarded a corner of my ceiling the whole night, and the owner felt the need to reassure me she did not rent to prostitutes.
Things were different here, and that was okay. But at least I now had my own bathroom with a hot shower, there weren't any critters scurrying around, and the staff had been courteous. With a coffee from the bus station across the street, a cigarette from the pre-adolescent vendor who roamed the neighborhood, a book, and my little ray of sunshine, I was happy.
Yes, you get what you pay for. Thank goodness for the priceless.