OK, sports fans. I shouldn't tell you this story. I really, really shouldn't. It's one of those stories you only tell your buddies after an NFL double-header spent pounding High Life at the condo.
But I promised full disclosure, and by god, you're going to get it.
That being said, this is a PG-13 (at worst) story, so all you voyeurs out there can go somewhere else.
No, this is a story of the human element in all its forms: adversity, fear, kindness, and ultimately, vindication and belief in self.
It starts about an hour after I left you Wednesday.
After the American's loss to Mexico, I returned to the hotel, stoked for a night out with the other American reporters in town for the game. But I quickly learned that there was a big problem: I lost my ATM card. Or to put it better, I had it stolen.
No, not by a drug lord. The culprit: the cash machine in the hotel lobby. Seems earlier in the day, I was in a rush when withdrawing cash. I dashed off without snagging my card, and the machine ate it, for "security reasons."
Well, needless to say, even I'm not dumb enough to drive after dark in Mexico City, and so with limited cash, a cab was out of the question. I thought I'd be spending my lone free night in one of the biggest cities in the world at a hotel bar.
Lucky for me, a few of the U.S. media was at my hotel, and were gracious enough to invite me to dinner at the Argentine restaurant around the bend. They were even kind enough to pick up the tab (see, Big Brother McClatchy: I'm saving money! Spare my job!).
Neil with U.S. Soccer was even sport enough to split the Rib Eye for two, which was bloody as hell. After a few courses and a few rounds, we made our way back into the hotel in a sedan-turned-cab. Yes, there were five us, plus the cabbie, in a Tercel. Feeling my oats, I even paid the fare with some of the limited amount of cash I had in my wallet. Consider this foreshadowing, Part I.
Back at the hotel, as we're saying our so-longs, one of our party goes up to the nefarious ATM, starts punching buttons, and asks, "Tiene Adam's card?" Even in broken Spanish, the machine got the message. And apparently, didn't take kindly to it, because it put one hell of a hex on me the next day.
The alarm blared at 8 a.m., and I was checked out by 9. I rented a car for a reason -- to see the city, on my terms -- and even half-broke, I was going to.
Even if it took two hours to go roughly 35 miles. Even if the air conditioning didn't work. Even if roads that Garmin said existed really didn't. But I was a man on a mission. I wanted to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan, located on the northeast side of the city, and nothing was going to stop me.
I still had a few hundred pesos (13 to a dollar), and I knew I was going to have to ration them to make sure I got back to the airport in time to drop off the rental and check into the international flight.
But every time construction stopped my progress, street vendors approached my car with delightful goodies. Yes, I bought a Cruz Azul windshield flag. What of it?
Plus, I discovered the roads of Mexico City had more in common with those of Miami than the homicidal drivers and lagoon-sized potholes. There are tolls. I made a mental note of what I spent on the way there, and kept that much set aside to get back.
Anyway, I finally arrive at the pyramids around 11, and they were worth the trip. The entrance fee takes up all of my reserve pesos, but since I planned on saving enough for the tolls, I didn't see it as a problem. Consider this foreshadowing, Part II.
But more on that later. Let's talk about the pyramids. Amazing. Breathtaking. Human ingenuity at its finest. Burial grounds for the multi-ethnic indigenous people of 2,000 years ago, its size is matched only by its detail. I don't have time to climb the Pyramid of the Sun, but if you get there, I recommend going at dawn. Hear it's phenomenal.
After a quick bite and the obligatory gift shopping (thankfully, they took tarjeta de credito), I hopped in my car at noon -- leaving me more than an hour to get to the 20 miles to the airport. And unlike most of the roads from the hotel, I was flying on a stretch of freeway that blows I-95 out of the water.
As I arrive at the expected tollbooth, I realize quickly that something is very, very wrong. For some inexplicable reason, the toll is 27 pesos ($2) more going back than coming. Translation: I'm $2 short of getting past. I plead my case to the attendant, then his supervisor in the worst Spanish this side of the Taco Bell dog (RIP), but he politely -- but firmly -- said I'm out of luck. Without paying the appropriate fee, getting to the airport was a pipe dream. And unlike the volcano rock vendor at Teotihuacan, they don't take credit card.
Friends, there's nothing more terrifying than realizing you might miss your flight home, and be stuck in a foreign country where you don't know a single soul, over TWO LOUSY DOLLARS.
I'm absolutely pouring sweat at this point. My Chevy matchbox car is parked on the side of the road, right in front of the toll plaza, and I don't know what to do. Can I get a cash advance off my credit card? Do I even know the PIN? What if I try to sell some of the crap I just bought?
At about the time I seriously thought about busting through the gate and taking my chances against Mexico Highway Patrol, the supervisor returns to my car. He's got an idea. Instead of, you know, reaching into his own pocket and giving me the 27 pesos, he helps me flag down passing cars and beg for money. Yes, even Adam Beasley, professional journalist for a major metropolitan newspaper, can go from cocky sports writer to panhandler in 24 hours without a working debit card. I could tell you it took some pride-swallowing to beg for money on the side of the road, but less than three hours before my flight was set to leave for Cancun, pride was not a luxury I could afford. Thankfully, the tollbooth dude explained my situation to passer-bys in Spanish, saving me further embarassment.
First car ponied up five pesos. Seventeen to go. The next car didn't even brake as it blew by us. Now I know how it feels to work in sales. Finally, paydirt. A nice, middle-aged couple hears my tale of woe, and agrees to pay the difference. I profusely thank both them and attendant -- but not before making sure there wasn't another booth another two miles up the road -- before speeding off.
After another 25 minutes of getting lost in the sprawl of Mexico City, I make it to the airport in time to check in for my flight. Miami International Airport never looked so beautiful as when I touched down about 10 p.m. Thursday.
So, in closing, let's recap: I navigated the Byzantine Mexican customs system, the insanely planned roads of Mexico City, the beer shower following one of the most heart-breaking losses in the last, well, six weeks for the U.S. MNT, banged up some amazing Argetine beef, lost my VISA debit, saw one of the true wonders of the world and caught my flight home, purely on the kindness of strangers.
So, what did you do this week?