Often I meet people when I visit home and they ask me “Wes, what have you learned in your travels?” The first thing I have to say is that this is a total lie — no one has ever asked me that. They might ask “What was your favorite place?” or “Eat anything weird?” but that’s about it. And after an awkward pause, the next question is usually “Did you watch Idol last night?”
Every hero becomes a bore at last. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
But I think it’s important that we all share our experiences and our knowledge in this life, so I’ve started a new series. I hope you enjoy it. And, of course, learn something.
One thing I’ve learned –and this was fairly recently– is that the slightly-charming beach town of Tela, Honduras is home to the world’s ugliest transvestite.
You’ll probably want to take my word on this.
I was having a beer one evening at an outdoor bar while my friend Rich was crashed out at the hotel. I’ve long since forgotten the name of the place (and probably never knew it to start with) but it was our favorite hangout. It was hot and muggy and the waitress was Satan Incarnate but we were the only gringos there and the beer was both the cheapest and coldest in town.
Translation: it cost a buck and was actually below room temperature.
Also, we could pick up a reedy unlocked wifi signal from somewhere nearby on our cellphones. This was an incredible perk in a town where the local network is linked to the internet by a large jar of specially-trained fireflies — they blink in binary. Organic, certainly, but painfully slow.
I’d just ordered a beer –which meant I might actually get it before closing time– when she staggered to the bar and slumped onto a stool just around the corner from me.
She was about nine miles past drunk. And she was just shattered — slack-jawed, sweaty and desperately holding onto the bar. Jerry curl ran down the side of her face as she panted and I saw that her chipped teeth were smeared with lipstick.
And she just sat there. Staring at me.
It was at this point that Satan delivered my beer.
She must have goggled at me, unmoving, for five solid minutes. I slowly pivoted on my stool from side to side wondering (hoping) that she was in fact unconscious. But, no, her eyes tracked me with only moderate lag. Then she shifted on her stool, gripped the bar tightly and stood. After swaying a moment, she turned and started limping my way.
Now, I have to tell you: this is a special kind of fear. This is not an Oh no, I’m going to miss my flight and have to sleep in the airport kind of fear. This is a whole different animal. You’ve never pissed your pants over a missed flight, have you?
And in the five minutes it took her to cross the six feet that separated us, I found religion. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism — I think I covered all the ism’s. I was praying to Zoroaster when she finally passed behind and staggered to the bathroom. (I still owe you that goat sacrifice, Oh Great Prophet.)
I chugged my beer, paid my bill and –of course– ran like hell.
Lesson learned? Never be afraid to run out on a beer. I don’t care how cold it is.