After eight indulgent and glorious days off in Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara (during which time our muscles and pain-tolerance go COMPLETELY soft)...
Bruce and I learn the hard way that every food-oriented establishment in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Guanajuato close promptly at 5pm.
(Which seems excessive in my opinion, given that the sun stays fuerte until at LEAST 8pm).
As such, at the tail end of an accidental 100km day, nursing aching knees and threadbare spirits and with only a pair of apples between us, we enquire at a random gas station if there might be a nearby restaurante that is abierto at this hora.
The vague promise of tacos leads us south, through a town where every shutter is closed, down a side street to a plaza where the locals apologetically suggest that we ask at the local hotel.
The hotel is next to a cafe, where all the chairs inside are stacked on top of the tables.
I leave Bruce with the bikes, and walk into a lovely inner courtyard, full of tables dressed with bunches of week-old flowers.
I follow the sound of voices toward the back, where I poke my head into a kitchen...
... And discover three women, elbows deep in chopping and stirring, who glance up at my intrusion.
"Disculpen, buenas tardes," I say, and continue in Spanish, "it's just that, we heard it might be possible to have dinner here?"
And despite the kindly expression on the face of the woman closest to me...
It's clear from the energy in the room that they are unequivocally closed for the evening.
Furthermore, it's obvious that no one knows quite what to say to me -- as I stand there sweaty and disheveled, with a deep red line impressed on my forehead from hours of wearing a hat underneath my helmet.
In the face of her hesitation, I press on:
"It's just that, we're on a very long journey, and we've been cycling all day, and everywhere else is closed, and it seems like you are maybe also closed, but I wonder if there is any way it might be possible to eat dinner here tonight?"
Hearing this, the first woman turns to the second, who is obviously in charge of the kitchen, and whose hands are full of food.
After watching me, she turns back to the first woman -- and I will never forget the musical sound of her voice, as she gently chides her friend:
"Pues, dile que si! Dile que si."
(Tell her yes! Tell her yes.)
They tell us to sit, and that we will be having ensalada and carne and quesadillas, and when the salad comes it has thin-sliced cucumber and thin-sliced red onion and PECANS and PEPPERS and a SIDE OF AVOCADO, of all things, lightly dressed in a homemade vinaigrette that is subtle and peppery and sweet.
I am over the moon with happiness and gratitude.
So much so... that it would have been very easy to stop asking here.
They'd already gone out of their way to take care of us!
They'd fed us delicious fresh things, even though they were closed!
How could I be so BOLD, as to ask for more?
But... I do.
It takes some creative work-arounds in Spanish, and repeated explanations until we find the right woman to talk to, but we end up paying 500 pesos to stay in a room that normally goes for 650.
... AND, as soon as we are settled, EVERYONE -- kitchen staff and manager and random man who fetched the soap and towels -- leaves for the evening, locking the back door behind them.
So that we have the ENTIRE bougainvillea-covered hotel to ourselves.
When we wake up the next morning, completely alone except for a nest of yellow-breasted baby swallows in the rafters for company...
I realize that this dawning day happens to be the four-year anniversary of when Bruce and I first met.
It is SUCH a magical experience -- and it reminds me of a truism shared by a dear friend just before we parted ways in India, almost ten years ago, which is that:
You don't get... what you don't ask for.
And while there is nothing quite like travel in a foreign country to force you to exercise your asking muscles...
In reality, being able to ask for what you want is a skill that impacts you ALL the time.
No matter where in the world you are, and no matter WHAT it is that you want.
And especially if what you want... is an exception to the rule.
This week, I invite you to look for a place in your life where you could stand to make an ASK that would require someone else to bend the rules for you.
And once you identify it -- summon your guts, remember that hearing the word "no" never hurt anyone, and follow these steps (in 30 seconds or less):
1. Greet the gatekeeper
2. Tell them a story
3. Acknowledge "the rules"
4. Ask if there's ANY way -- that maybe, just in this case -- they could make an exception?