Rincon, Puerto Rico

Most Frightening Trip Ever — Hatillo, Puerto Rico

The most frightening trip I have ever experienced was driving through Hatillo, Puerto Rico on December 28, 2008.

Our family flew to San Juan and rented an SUV  for the 2  1/2 hour drive to Rincon. The trip took us 4  1/2 hours, and one of those hours was the most frightening in my life.

We began our trip cruising west along the north shore, as we caught glimpses of the lapis Atlantic Ocean through the windows of our green Ford Explorer, our excitement increased.

When we approached the seaside town Hatillo, we hit traffic congestion and a confusion of color, and cacophony pierced our eyes and ears. Sirens screamed, horns blared, and men garbed in garish, fluorescent clothing and bizarre, grotesque masks guzzled liquor and beer while riding in the back of colorfully painted trucks and parade floats.

As we entered Hatillo we were in gridlock and the town was bedlam, with groups of men staggering in the streets swilling alcohol. We closed our windows, locked our doors, and peered at the insanity. Unfortunately, we became their target.

We feared for our safety

Men swarmed our SUV, shook it, and shot it with Silly String. I hoped that they wouldn’t overturn it. Metal boomed, as they pounded their fists on the hood, roof and windows, and I wondered if the glass would shatter. Police, who were outnumbered probably 100 to 1, ignored the pandemonium, and we knew if the crowd became violent, we were in trouble. I was mostly worried about the children in the back seat, who ranged from 9 to 15 years old.

Our jeep creeped at about 2 mph for about an hour, and we cringed and gaped as some of the men became falling-down drunk.

Eventually, we spotted a cross street about four blocks ahead. Without coaxing, my husband drove over the curb, and on the sidewalk, and we passed the gridlocked cars. When we turned on the open street and accelerated, we high-fived and laughed from relief.

Mascaras de Hatillo or Hatillo Mask Festival

We learned that the locals were celebrating the Hatillo Mask Festival or Mascaras de Hatillo. It appeared to me, that for some, it was an excuse to get drunk and terrorize anyone caught in the gridlock, though the festival is legitimate.

Mascaras de Hatillo, Puerto Rico

Mascaras de Hatillo, Puerto Rico (Photo credit: enlacepr) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

It commemorates when King Herod ordered soldiers to kill little children after Jesus was born to prevent Jesus from becoming king. The gaudily clad men represented these soldiers.

I suspect if we visited the lovely seaside town Hatillo on another day, we would have found it charming not alarming. Not happening…

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Paris 1973

Mistaken for Prostitutes in Paris

When I visited Paris with my high school French class we were mistaken for prostitutes and booked in a brothel by the travel agent. Do you see a common theme?

My roommates in Paris were my friend, Deb, and her mother, June, who chaperoned. June was — still is — very beautiful. She was fun but refined, and she dressed with elegance.

One evening, June wore a chic yellow jacket trimmed in white. She paired the jacket with white slacks and white boots. The three of us took a walk and explored the city. We found a quaint cafe and dropped in for dinner.

As we dined, sleazily dressed women in heavy makeup glared at us. We glanced at them, and we spoke in hushed voices because we felt threatened. I thought they were jealous because June looked stunning.

When we returned from dinner, we told our French teacher about the “ladies” with their angry stares. We learned that we had chosen a restaurant in a part of town known for prostitution. Leave it to us to venture into the wrong neighborhood.

Also, boots were a sign of prostitution in Paris. I suspect that the women in the restaurant thought that we were invading their territory and wanted us out.

During my high school French trip, not only were we mistaken for prostitutes, but the travel agent had booked us into a brothel.

Was someone trying to tell us something?

https://dorothyadele.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/booked-in-a-brothel-in-paris/

 

Eiffel Tower in Paris

Booked in a Brothel in Paris

Our bus driver and tour guide in Paris

Our bus driver and tour guide in Paris (photo by dorothyadele)

My high school French class flew to Paris where a travel agent had booked us in a brothel. The brothel was just the beginning of a stressful but humorous trip.

After about a nine-hour flight, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport with about 25 students and chaperones. We were exhausted and eager to check into our hotel room.

We boarded a bus at the airport and drove to a dingy smog-coated hotel. We saw signs from our bus windows that advertised rooms by the hour.

We left the bus and entered the hotel. We lugged our bags down a dirty, dimly lit hallway and entered our rooms. We noticed that our rooms did not have bathrooms but guests shared a common bathroom down the hall.

My French teacher was mortified and quickly called our travel agent. After several phone calls, we boarded our bus for the next hotel. We arrived and checked in to the beautiful Le Meridien hotel. I suspect that the travel agency absorbed the additional cost.

After an exhausting first day and visiting several tourist sights on the following days, I decided that I needed a day’s rest if I wanted to enjoy the trip. I skipped a midweek tour — which I regretted because I missed a lot. My group left for the tour, and I was the only student who remained in the hotel.

As I relaxed and read my book, someone knocked on the door. I guessed that it was someone from our group. I opened the door and a man stood outside my room. He asked for Madame Bertrand, and in my limited French I told him that she was not in my room, and I politely closed the door.

He knocked two more times about 30 minutes apart, and I did not open the door. I had no way to get in touch with my group, and I was nervous.

Rotary phone in our room

Rotary phone in our room (photo by dorothyadele)

I scoured the room for a weapon. I found a thin stemmed wine glass on our bar that I could break if he barged in.

Someone knocked again, and my heart pounded. I spoke through the door. The visitor was a flower deliveryman who held a large bouquet.

I opened the door and I tried to explain in French that the flowers were not for me and that a man wouldn’t leave me alone. I accepted the flowers and quickly dialed security while the deliveryman stayed.

Within 10 minutes, about five employees, including security and the concierge joined us in my room . In my panic, I must have dialed the concierge too, even though I didn’t need restaurant reservations.

I attempted to explain that a man “un homme” had knocked on my door. No one understood my French and I felt like I lost at a Charades game. I paced, knocked on the door, pointed to the flowers and used the French words that I knew. They laughed, but I was glad they stayed.

While I made a scene for my new French friends, my roommates returned. They were amused, but not surprised, that I disrupted the hotel while they were gone.

My French teacher learned that the persistent door knocker expected to meet Madame Bertrand. I guess he thought that I was hiding her.

During my trip, I nearly stayed in a brothel and played Charades with the hotel staff at Le Meridien. Who knew Paris could be so much fun?

"I Love Lucy" Lucille Ball Promotes Vitameatavegamin

When Television Shows Were Innocent

I was touched when my daughter gave me a framed “I Love Lucy” photo that she recently  won at an event. It reminded me that we watched “I Love Lucy” reruns when she was five-years old. It was special because I introduced her to the comedy that I grew up with and loved.

When I was young we watched “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best”. The media promoted family, fun and moral fortitude.

Today, parents must monitor television shows and commercials to prevent their children from being exposed to vile language and sex. What happened to our society?

Did the media change us, or did our lax morals change the media?