During my time in the Dominican Republic I have come to learn that Dominicans are a beautiful, happy, incredibly friendly people. Everyone waves, everyone says hello, and everyone smiles. This makes me feel cheerful and at home and, although my surroundings and the people themselves do look remarkably different, not so far away from my beautiful American southwest.
But when it comes to service, Dominicans cannot be beat: they are, by far, the worst.
When my mom and I settled into our new home-away-from home in Punta Cana a few weeks ago, we marveled at the amount of workers wandering the grounds of our condominium complex. Dozens of gardeners, security guards, bartenders, you name it – at your service and with a smile. “It just seems like a lot of people,” I said to my mom, as we looked out across the lawn to see that most of the other condos were totally empty. “One thing you’ll notice about Dominicans,” she replied, “is that they use a lot of people to do a little bit of a work.”
I shrugged and smiled and didn’t think much of it, and the next morning we set out on our 7-day road trip through Santo Domingo and the Southwest.
Austin and I spent our first night at the hotel shivering. The housekeepers had forgotten the blanket on our bed.
You might ask why we went an entire night before noticing we didn’t have a blanket, and here’s the answer: we’re in the tropics. In our rooms back in Punta Cana we skip the blasting A/C and sleep only with sheets. So we didn’t think much of finding a bed with only sheets in our hotel in the capitol. We never expected that air conditioning to be so violently cold and those sheets to be so silly and useless. The next morning as we met the others in their rooms we noticed they all had big, thick, fluffy duvets. The kind you find in hotel rooms around the world. The kind that keeps your toes from going numb in freezing hotels. Everyone had them but us. Somehow our housekeeper had forgotten.
The next day when we returned to our room we found that all of our towels were gone. All of them. Even the washcloths we hadn’t used. The housekeeper had stripped the bathroom and had never replaced them. We made our way to the lobby and requested some towels and, oh yes, may we please have a blanket for our bed?
The man smiled warmly and told us the towels and blanket would be sent up soon.
An hour passed, no towels, no blanket.
We called. We told them we were stinky and cold and needed towels to dry-off and blankets to stay warm. They told us yes, yes, of course, right away! And we hung up feeling very pleased with ourselves.
The towels finally arrived, but still no blankets. When the lady came to deliver them I read her the Spanish word for blanket straight from my dictionary, but she stared at me blankly. I pointed to the bare bed and rubbed my hands over my arms. ‘Frio,’ I told her. She smiled and nodded and walked away. But still we had no blankets.
We got my mom involved. Perhaps our scattered Spanish was confusing people. Surely a native speaker/local could save the day. She went to the lobby and talked to the man at the front desk. He assured her a blanket would be sent soon. An hour passed, no dice. She called the front desk who explained to her that all of the housekeepers were gone for the day and that the door to the closet with the blankets was locked. My mother did not respond patiently to this, and finally, within just a few minutes, we had a blanket. Not a crisp, fluffy, duvet like the other rooms had, mind you. It was one of those ratty yellow blankets you might find at summer camp. But it was a blanket, and we were warm, and we didn’t want to push it.
At one o’clock in the morning the phone rang. I stumbled to pick it up. It was the front desk. In my sleepy state I simply couldn’t muster a syllable of Spanish so I made no attempt. Upon hearing my ‘Hello,’ the guy stumbled in broken English “Your towels are at your door.”
“What?” I said, not at all smoothly.
“There is an attendant with your towels at your door.”
Apparently they had forgotten that we already had our towels, and at one o’clock in the morning they made a feeble attempt to deliver them. I say feeble because although someone called, no one ever knocked, and when I opened the door and peered into the hallway, there were no towels.