Of all the things sacrificed to public health in the last eighteen months, I think the one I regret the least is the default poolside Summer holiday. I first began to understand something about it, and the counter intuitive aspects of human happiness, on holiday in Cozumel, off the coast of Mexico, in 1999.
I was staying at an all-inclusive hotel, not the sort of thing I would normally have done, being more of a self-identified ‘traveller’ at the time, happier with ad-hoc hostels and thumbing from town to town. I immediately resented the little coloured wristband that alerted the staff to the level of service and the range of free cocktails I was entitled to. But this was the cheapest and easiest way to spend a week scuba diving, which I was eager to try.
So perhaps I was already inclined to despise many of the other residents, who seemed more at home, and on whom I projected a completely different set of motives to those which had brought me there. Lazier, more habitual, more self-indulgent motives.
Everyone else it seemed, was American, and they looked to me a pretty uniformly overweight, bovine, pampered bunch, radiating complacent entitlement to all the attentions the staff were happy to lavish on them. The obvious and visible distinction between the North American guests and the Central American staff only made the dynamic more distasteful in my severe, if unvocalised, judgement.
But the thing that really stuck out was that, of the two, the ones who were clearly having the most fun, were the Mexicans – the staff. The Americans seemed bored stiff. Bar stewards, waiters and pool boys alike seemed to be having the time of their lives, even as they turned the livestock over on their sun loungers like so many sausages and chops.