Vibrant Mexico City is where I often once traveled for work, luckily as it is a gastronomic and cultural hub. Because it is the largest city in North America with about 22 million people, it is difficult to navigate and traffic is a nightmare. In addition, road safety can be a concern and you can never, ever hail a taxi off the street without high risk of getting mugged. (Otherwise, it’s a wonderful city! Really.) That said, you must always hire a driver to get around, especially for business.
One trip, my client Robert and I got a driver named Ciro from our hotel. A petite man, he was big in personality and information as a former history teacher. He regaled us with stories and facts about his country and Mexico City while I egged him on with endless questions.
In the middle of our work day, Ciro drove us to a fantastic, traditional Mexican restaurant for lunch. He guided us through the menu, ordering up classic dishes and burning our mouths on spicy hot foods we thought we could handle. When we got to mamey (an indigenous fruit with orange flesh that tastes like caramel) ice cream, Ciro suddenly stood up and waved to the mariachi band that was circulating in the restaurant.
“Hola, amigos!” he called and waved. “Me gustaría solicitar una canción.”
Next thing you know, our petite driver revealed a big singing voice as he belted out a Mexican song of his choice with the spontaneous accompaniment of the band. He serenaded us with unbridled bravado, gesturing dramatically and bringing down the house with his tune.
Robert and I looked at each other in utter disbelief as mamey ice cream dripped from our mouths. But that’s how Mexico rolls. It’s common for restaurant patrons to summon musicians for such personal concerts. We just happened to be unsuspecting beneficiaries that day.
After lunch, Ciro took us to our final work meeting, which was dull by comparison. But more treats were in store afterwards … Ciro asked if we’d like to see some of his favorite places in Mexico City. How could we say no?
Several tourist landmarks, hidden gems and a bakery later, Ciro drove us back to our hotel in time for a late dinner. He hugged us goodbye and thanked us for a wonderful day. Let me repeat, he thanked us for a wonderful day. Now that was hospitality, even though Robert tipped him handsomely.
We retreated to our hotel rooms, exhausted after a full day of meetings, tourism, singing and more. I put my feet up on the bed to digest all that had happened. About an hour later, I heard a knock on my door.
“Hola?” I said confused, thinking someone had the wrong room as mine had been cleaned for the day.
“Miss Dansby?” the voice asked. I opened the door.
Four dozen red roses blocked my view of the sweet delivery man. With effort, he peered to the side of them and said: “These are for you.”
Utter disbelief fell upon me again. Even my most serious boyfriends had only sent me a maximum of two dozen red roses at a time! And I wasn’t dating anyone then. Who would have sent these flowers? Aha, there was a little card.
“Dear Angela and Robert, thank you for the most wonderful day. You made me feel like a million pesos. Love, Ciro.”
It turns out Ciro’s wife was a florist, so he had easy access to roses but still. What a thoughtful, charming and unnecessary thing to do for two business people he might not ever see again.
I walked to Robert’s room and knocked on his door with our bouquet.
“Half of these are for you,” I said. “They are a token of appreciation from Ciro.”
Robert fell over laughing. He took half of the stash to smell the roses on his next few days in Mexico City. As I was leaving the next day, I put my stash in a large “vase” (trash can) in my room so the cleaning staff could enjoy them.
That they did as Robert reported that the next day, he saw cleaning carts with roses. The staff had divvied them up amongst themselves. I was happy to share the love.
A year later, Robert and I returned to the same hotel and asked for Ciro. To our delight, he was still driving for the hotel. He came out to meet us.
“Ciro!” I exclaimed and ran over to hug him. “It’s so nice to see you again!”
He looked at me blankly and winked at his colleague behind the concierge desk as if all the ladies did that when they saw him.
“I’m sorry, have we met?” he asked. He legitimately seemed at a loss. Not even mention of the four dozen roses set off a lightbulb.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you again,” I said embarrassed. “We look forward to spending the day with you.”
Never in my life had I been given roses by a man who didn’t remember me. That was certainly “one” for the roses … As composer Dan Fogelberg would say, “It’s the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.”