TULUM, Mexico- Hurricane Rina was on its way and I attempted to prepare. I was in the coastal town of Tulum, right in the path of the ranging storm. Being a traveler, I had no windows to board up, no cars to provide shelter for, no hatches to batten down, but, knowing hurricane culture well, I knew I needed just one thing: I went to the store and tried to get a six pack of Corona.
“I can’t sell you this,” the girl behind the counter told me.
“Because of the hurricane alcohol sales are prohibited.”
When the hurricane reports come in, alcohol sales are shut down in Mexico. I was thus left unprepared for Hurricane Rina.
Around the world, people seem to do one think when the hurricane warnings go off: they get together with their friends and family and get drunk. This goes as much for Florida or the Carolinas as it does for Mexico or anywhere else in the Caribbean. In ’99, I was in what could have been a large hurricane on the coast of Florida. I got my friends together and we made a beeline for the nearest Publix. What we saw astounded us: the beer aisle was wiped nearly clean. We found ourselves scooping up the dregs.
A state of emergency was called along the Yucatan coast, and work was officially called off for everyone for two days. The rush was on to get to the store and get some booze, but I, at least, was too late. But, I must say, the Mexicans had far more foresight than I.
The hurricane house parties raged through the night. The next morning the streets of Tulum were empty. My hotel was deserted. Where was the staff I was suppose to pay? Where was the lady who was suppose to cook me my complimentary breakfast? I pounded on doors, looking for someone, anyone.
They were all in bed, way hung over.
I went to another hostel at around 11 AM, and woke up the workers inside. One stumbled over to the door, using counters, chairs, and walls as hand holds.
“Estas de goma?”
In opposition to the alcohol ban, the town of Tulum still partied as every other coastal town does in the path of a hurricane.
“Why is alcohol sales prohibited?” I asked a hotel owner just to hear his response.
“Because they don’t want people wandering drunk out in the middle of a hurricane.”
Though I could hypothesize that big storms cause an evolution ingrained reaction in humans to bond together with their immediate community, and, therefore the social necessity to provide some drinks, and I could propose that emotions of excitement and the stimulation of impending danger may also provoke the urge for a sedative like alcohol to “take the edge off,” but I think the reality that it is so common for people in the line of hurricanes to get drunk is because nobody has to go to work the following day. Hurricanes provide the people of the coastal world with bonus drinking days.