It was a productive and fulfilling start to the week…I had been invited to a scientific conference at an Unnamed All-Inclusive Hotel (no hard feelings, guys) and was excited for several days of lectures on one of my favorite subjects.
Little did I know I was in for the experience of a lifetime…but not the one I expected.
After a welcome party at the hotel the previous evening, the morning of the first presentations came. I arrived onsite and took my seat between a senior Cambridge professor and an actual NASA employee, furiously working my purple pen to keep notes on the advanced material.
Lunchtime came, and after a meal of a few mediocre egg rolls and what was possibly the single okayest cheeseburger in paradise, I started to pack up and head back upstairs to take in the afternoon’s lectures.
As I moved toward the exit of the cafeteria, an understimulated hotel staffer approached me and asked if I had paid for my meal, accusing me of hamburglary and insisting that I owed the frankly ridiculous sum of $25. I calmly explained that I was an invited guest of the conference taking place, an explanation that apparently did not satisfy the man in the collared shirt.
I reached for my phone to contact the event organizer and clear everything up only to discover that it was dead (sorry my nose isn’t pressed up against the thing all day, I know that is expected of us in 2019). A dispute arose as to who was responsible for settling the tab…I admit, I got pretty worked up over the whole thing.
Apparently I was in need of relaxation…luckily, today I would get it.
Buffet Secret Service produced a phone of his own, which was very much alive. He punched in a few numbers, and in what seemed like seconds a brightly decorated vehicle appeared on the scene. Before I knew it, I was the fortunate recipient of a police escort north of the airport to the neighborhood of Las Juntas, home of La Fisicalia Correctional Spa.
The Vibes: Secured at the wrist to the open-air passenger platform for safety or something, I felt the cool highway breeze whip pleasantly through my hair as we sped up 200 toward our destination for the evening. I made conversation with my security detail on the ride, mostly about current events such as my impending stay at La Fisicalia.
Upon my arrival at the accommodations, I learned that the establishment was based in part on the sensory deprivation concept that has become popular with some demographics in recent years. I was encouraged to remove all my bracelets, necklaces, and other character design elements to fully immerse myself in the experience.
Although I was initially hesitant, the staff was very convincing in their desire to have me get into the spirit of the setting. I hadn’t actually seen my wrists in years, so it was a unique opportunity for self-examination.
After being processed and photographed (I assume for advertising purposes, happens to me pretty regularly), I was shown to my quarters. A minimalist space was dominated by stately grey tones and empty of every imaginable object except for a molded concrete toilet, which could only be flushed from outside. I thought it showed a commitment to service by the staff.
At first I was told that I would only be provided with hourly lodging–a standard practice in accommodations of a certain caliber–but as the door closed behind me the bellhop informed me that my stay might possibly be extended overnight, allowing me to experience a full rotation of The Earth in the healing embrace of the correctional spa.
A customer service agent later came to confirm this, leaving me to unwind after a short day on the cold concrete floor. She added that I would at least get to enjoy a room to myself while adjacent suites were occupied by 5 or 6 guests. Some call that “solitary confinement,” but I preferred to think of it as VIP treatment.
For full disclosure, I found the lack of certainty regarding the length of my stay somewhat unprofessional for my American sensibilities and asked to speak with the manager in my best imitation of a Midwestern mother. The staff, hearing my concerns, offered me a complimentary Mace facial for my inconvenience, which I declined as I am unfortunately allergic to Mace.
Still, it’s the thought that counts.
The Vices: Left to my own devices without any of my own devices, I discovered other ways to help me make the most of my stay at La Fisicalia. Following the lead of ORLANDO HECTOR, the gentleman who had previously enjoyed a stay in my room and made his mark in three-inch letters on the ceiling, I scrawled out my own in the wall-size guestbook using a button from my cargo shorts. With the lack of distractions, my creativity was unlocked already.
Some time later, I was offered a refreshment: rebottled water. It seemed a bit oily, which I attributed to some kind of health food thing…maybe it was alkaline or charcoal-activated or whatever. In any event, it was a bit too fancy for me so I didn’t drink much.
I pride myself on being able to foster camaraderie in a wide range of scenarios, a skill which served me well during my stay at La Fisicalia. I forged a connection with several large cockroaches that crawled out of the toilet in my quarters during the evening. For hours we played catch with one of my shoes until our game was broken up by a hungry sparrow, who had apparently also caught wind of the cuisine offered at these friendly confines.
Isolation in the chamber was a chance to be alone with my thoughts, a luxury we are rarely afforded in our modern world. I considered that every decision I had made in my 31 years had led me here, and pondered what it meant to start April Fools’ Day at a conference on the furthest reaches of space and end it in this room exploring the deepest recesses of my mind.
My preset wakeup call came at approximately 7am as flights began to depart from the airport nearby, but I found it unnecessary as the excitement of being invited to La Fisicalia hadn’t worn off since the moment I stepped off the shuttle, and I had been unable to sleep.
Some time later, room service arrived: tortillas–dyed grey to match my room’s decor, an inspired touch–along with some kind of food liquid and what could have possibly been eggs. It was probably vegan, which reflected the correctional spa’s focus on a holistic approach.
I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t feeling very hungry.
The daily activity schedule offered plenty of options for passing the time. I meditated. I took a short nap. I performed a bit of karaoke. I used my very limited mathleticism to figure out that a mile was about 1,730 steps for me, and put several of them on my internal FitBit during the day.
I inquired repeatedly about early check-out and was told I would have to wait the full 24 hours. The commitment to their method was admirable, but I was ready to go for a smoke. “There must be some kind of way out of here,” said this joker to a guy next door. He didn’t get the reference, a profound reminder that my reality is only my own.
Some time later, a representative from the front desk came to my room to inform me that my stay at La Fisicalia was at an end. I’m notoriously terrible with hotel check-out times, and so I truly appreciated the reminder…another example of the exceptional caliber of service.
I had heard rumors that the staff at La Fisicalia had a reputation for taking valuables from their guests while they slept, one which I happily discovered was wholly unfounded. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find all my party apparati safely in my backpack where I had surreptitiously stashed them while being checked in because you can’t be too careful.
Once I had served my time in journalistic endeavour, I gathered my things and headed for the nearest Oxxo to retox myself with a few cold cans. The return trip to town was not included with the excursion, and so after I drank all 3 x 37 pesos on a highway bus stop, I set off for La Chingona for my first meal in about 30 hours because I said I’d catch you there, dammit.
The Verdict: Although the facilities could use some redecorating in my opinion and the amenities don’t quite fit with my interests, I can see La Fisicalia getting a lot of repeat business. In fact, I was intrigued to see that the correctional spa had a community outreach program that offered free day passes and seemed to take a focus on the disadvantaged. Sadly, I’m not sure it’s really for me…probably won’t catch me there again.