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Searching for love at the Re/Max balloon

Lessons from Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Bridgman, MI— After going through a divorce in Louisiana when I moved to Maine as CEO of Parkview in 2002, one of my personal goals was to find my soul mate and true love.

Friends and colleagues had good intentions in playing matchmakers. But nothing seemed to work.

I decided to try an "online" approach. After signing up for a Christian site of "fellow believers," I met a lady living in a small town in Mexico near Guadalajara.

It was December, and after some frequent email conversations, she invited me to come down for a four-day visit there.

Wow! This seemed like a fabulous idea where a mini vacation could be combined with a chance at love. Never mind that I knew nothing of this lady,or that I knew no one in Mexico.

My new internet friend "Martha" (not her real name) was from the U.S. but had been living in her parents’ home in Mexico as a caretaker. Via email, she explained she didn't own a car, so I would need to take a taxi from the airport in Guadalajara (an estimated 45-minute trip) to her parent's compound in the middle of town, right across the street from a large Re/Max Realtor balloon.

At the airport I should give the taxi driver the name of the town and tell him to drop me off by the Re/Max balloon. There would be an intercom doorbell to press by the entrance to the compound and she would come down and let me in.

My flight from Portland, Maine to Chicago was uneventful, but when I went to check in for my direct flight from ChicagoO’Hare to Guadalajara, I learned flight delays would move my arrival in Guadalajara from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I sent an email saying my arrival would be delayed by three to four hours.

After arriving at the Guadalajara airport, I found the taxi line at about 8:15 p.m. I asked the taxi line manager to write a note for my taxi driver who didn't understand a word of English. "Make sure to tell him to drop me at the Re/Max balloon in the middle of town.”

As the ride progressed, I began to feel nervous as I couldn't communicate with my taxi driver. What if the Re/Max balloon wasn't lit up? What if the instructions to the driver weren't accurate?

We entered a small town around 9:15 p.m. Soon my taxi came to a stop and there it was: the big Re/Max balloon.I paid my driver and left a generous tip. All seemed right with the world.

Right across the street, sure enough, a gated entrance to a compound. I rang the bell. No response.I tried again and still no answer.

After about 10 minutes of ringing with no luck, I became very concerned. I noticed two young men walking down the street toward me. Now, I'm really scared. Was I going to be robbed? Would they try to take my passport?

They stopped, and one of them spoke in broken English: "Sir, you look distressed, can we help?"

I explained my predicament and told them that if they could help me find a phone, I could call Martha. They took me to a drugstore about a block away and helped me make the call.

The line was busy. After waiting a minute, I tried again and Martha answered. I explained that no one answered the doorbell. She apologized and explained that when she was on her computer, she couldn't hear the bell. The two young men were kind enough to walk me back to the compound entrance and made sure Martha was there to meet me.

As we walked up the pathway toward the house, Martha explained that the guestroom was in the back of the property which could only be accessed from an outside entrance at the rear of the home. As we walked around to the rear of the property, it started getting chilly.

Martha showed me my well-appointed room and nonchalantly shared with me that the house didn't have a heater as it usually wasn't needed. A once-in-a-decade cold spell had moved in and had resulted in unusually cold temperatures that evening.

She told me to meet her at the front door of the compound house at 9 a.m. and we would go have breakfast at a coffee shop outside the compound.

I tried to get warm in my bed which had only a sheet and a bed cover.I was glad I had my Cunard jacket that I zipped all the way up under the covers to help me sleep.

I woke up to a bright sun shining through the window. Just before 9 a.m., I went to the front of the house and rang the doorbell. No response. I rang a second time and knocked on the door. Still no answer. So, I decided to go find the coffee shop.


As I was sipping a delicious mocha, Martha entered the shop and spotted me. We ordered some pastries. Then Martha said she wanted to show me around town. This was a walking tour. While I took frequent walks, I was not prepared for the pace and duration of this marathon.

During this Le Mans-on-legs tour, I came to realize that my visit was neither a vacation nor a social opportunity that I thought it would be. After two hours of walking, I did a mental evaluation of the events of the previous hours. I realized there were only two alternatives: I could tough it out and endure a couple more days of misery, or I could cut my losses and get out of there ASAP. I chose the latter.

After lunch, I gave Martha a feeble excuse for why I had to leave early, which she graciously accepted. She called for a taxi, giving them instructions to take me to the Guadalajara airport. Fortunately, I was able to get on the United flight to Chicago that evening.

As I reclined in my seat, I realized that sometimes in your personal life, as in business, you just have to cut your losses and move on.

Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at

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