Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Bellies Were Hugging! Ewwww!

We just got back yesterday from Panama City, Panama.  This trip was planned at the last moment in order to fulfill my immigration requirements (see The Face of Illegal Immigration), but it was also something I was excited about.  Panama City is steeped with history: the canal, colonial settlements, revolutions and invasions, but more than that, it is an area of the world we had yet to visit.

For a variety of reasons, we needed to take this trip when we did. It was not the ideal time for me, but much like having babies:

Is there ever really a good time?

The trip itself was by bus.  No big deal right, we take the bus all the time down here, but its not really the same thing.  The bus ride from San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama lasts anywhere from 12-18 hours.  12-18 hours of motion not of travel.  There is no layover, no stops (except at the border hence the descrepency in travel time), no nothing just driving.

Do you know how far you can travel in 12-18 hours by plane?

New York to London  -  7 hours
San Francisco to Paris  -  11 hours
Chicago to Tokyo  -  13 hours
Houston to Cape Town, South Africa  -  17 hours

We could have traveled virtually anywhere in the world, instead we chose to take a bus between San Jose and Panama City.  A whopping 317 miles away (straight line distance).

Now for a little extra cash, which we gladly paid, you get "first class" service.  "First class" is kind of a misnomer.  It actually means you get to take the bus that leaves at 11 at night and offers food service.  Leaving at 11 means sleep.  Everyone is asleep, right?

I guess we would have slept had I not screwed up when I bought the tickets for Sunday instead of Saturday and had I not had to go to change the dates on the tickets 2 days before the trip and had we not got stuck spread out all over the bus sitting next to complete strangers and had we not waited to the last minute to get a ride to the terminal sending my adrenaline production into overdrive because I thought we would not get there and had I not, well, the phrase comedy of errors comes to mind.

Anyway, so we finally get to the station and start getting into the travel mind set.  I start relaxing, the kids start having fun, and we all start people watching.

So picture us there, in the terminal, a family of giant gringos in a sea of latinos, the only gringos in the room, when in walks old-retired-travel-guy, lets call him DB.  So DB, who is obviously out of his element and beyond his Spanish ability starts speaking bad spanish loudly and making a scene.  He is really making it embarassing to be a gringo.  The room is packed, people are standing all over the terminal, STANDING, and DB is laying down, spread out on 4 chairs.  People are standing and DB has 4 chairs.


Fast forward about an hour and we load up on the bus.  Can you guess who is directly in front of me?  Yup, its DB.  Immediately he starts talking to me.  Maybe I have that look, you know the one that says "I'm your best friend, you can tell me anything".  So as he is talking I realize that he is not really talking to me, he is talking at me.  More specically he is complaining about the time the bus leaves, about the leg room (mind you DB is at least a foot shorter and his legs don't even touch the seat in front of him and as he is complaining about the foot room, or lack thereof, my knees are jammed into his seat and most likely into his back), telling me how he was tricked into paying more for the "first class" ticket and he can tell he got screwed, yada, yada, yada.

 Then I realize, he is not talking to me, or even at me, this guy is vomiting negativity.  We haven't even left the station and alreay someone is puking.

As I am listening to this guy go on and on and on, in walks a gentlemen of rather large carriage.  Now I am no spritely guy, but this guy is large, and he is looking at me from mid bus with a worried gaze.  Its a look that us bigguns understand.  A look that says "I hope he is not next to me."  Then, in a moment of simultaneous epiphiny, we come to the exact same realization.

We are sitting next to each other!

I have the aisle seat, and being the genius I am I deduce that he will need to get to the window, so I get up to let him pass.  I start to say hello, but he stops me with a head nod.  You know, the head nod.  Its the common greeting of the gringo around the world, but for a latino its quite odd.  The only thing I could surmise was this guy wanted nothing to do with me.  No chatting, no pleasantries, just sit down, shut up and drive.

After he makes himself comfortable, I go to regain my spot.  It is then I notice that he is encroaching on my space.  Literally he has commandeered about 4 inches of my seat moving my right knee ever closer to the center of the seat back in front of me, the seat occupied by DB.

If you are of average height, you may not know that the center of the seat is the worst place to put your knees. First and foremost its uncomfortable.  Second, it means that seat in front of you aint moving, not an inch.  If your knees are on the side there is hope. You might be able to spread your legs and make a bit of room, but if the knees are in the center, nothing doing.

So just as I am getting "comfortable" with my squished knees and my smaller seat, DB starts slamming the back of his chair into my knee.  I say nothing because over the years I have become accustomed to this behavior from unaware travellers in front of me.  The situation usually stops with a momentary glance backward so they can see my leg pinned  and crushed beneath their weight, but this time DB looks back, asks me if his chair is going to go back, and when I say "not likely" he returns to his tirade about being tricked into buying these "first class" tickets.

Shortly after take off, all calms down.  DB stops trying to shorten my legs with his chair, everyone pushes their seats back, the lights go off, and the sleeping starts.  That is when I feel it.  This strange sensation running down the right side of my belly.  You see, fat has a tendency to change shape, to mimick form, really to envelop things around it, so it should not have been a shock to feel his belly wrapping around my belly in a sort of repugnant embrace.

Our bellies were hugging!

No, I didn't throw up in my mouth, but I was definitely not comfortable with the situation.  Since there was really nothing I could do but go with the flow, or the jiggle and bounce, I closed my eyes and dozed off.

I am not sure how long I was out, but when I awoke, I glanced over at my well proportioned friend and saw something I will never forget.  He was fully reclined in the seat, legs extended but his right knee slightly elevated, his right hand on the seat back in front, left behind his head, and his head tilted ever so slightly towards my own.

Can't picture it?  Take a moment to assume the pose.  Recline yourself in your chair, I mean lay way back, now pull in that right leg a smidge so your knee pops just a bit, put your right hand out maybe even rest it on your desk, tuck that left hand behind your head and tilt your visage a little towards the left.

Does that pose look familiar?

It did for me because I have used that pose countless times, TheVWM loves it.  Its my male model pose, my Playgirl pose.  Not something I want to wake up to, and definitely not while our bellies are hugging.

So we continue on like that, me sleeping for short bursts and waking to some sort of horror until we arrive at the border at 5 am.  A short 4 hours later and we are on our way, this time my seat mate does not make it back on.  I wonder what happened for a while, then I quickly lose interest.  DB, however, begins to ask me question after question after question, like "Do you think I can changes seats?", or "How much longer do we have?", or "Where is a cheap place to stay in the city?"  The answer to each and everyone is the same, "I think you should ask the attendant."

Then a few short hours later we arrive.  DB goes on his way, and we go on ours.

When I reflect on moments like these, I come to realize something,  God has a sense of humor, and the only thing I can even say is:

Thank you God for teaching me obedience in moments like these.
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