Friday, March 18, 2011

Travel Tales (#2)

No one likes to be shocked unto silence, stunned by a sight so startling that your very utter terminates in mid-syllable, but it happens.

Like everyone else, I’m sure, I do not like being stopped dead in my tracks by surprises. In fact, I hate it. I will do whatever I can to act “normal” in very abnormal situations. Three cases in point:

I once went into a post office in a small Spanish town to ask for directions. Very helpful, the clerk behind the counter raced out to show me which direction I needed to go. Imagine my horror when the good man pointed down my nose, not with a normal hand and fingers, but with an arm that looked exactly like an ostrich's foot. The poor fellow had a deformed-from-birth two-fingered hand (actually two clubs is more accurate) that was just hideous to behold. Needless to say, I do not remember a thing that the helpful man said and I hardly remembered which way he was pointing, so stunned was I. Nevertheless I was profuse with my smiles and “gracias” as I assured him he was of the utmost help.

Another time, I was getting off a local bus in the seaside village of Nazarre, Portugal. One is always disoriented in a strange place and the traveler needs to think quickly and clearly to avoid grief. Suddenly from nowhere, up pops this shrunken old gypsy, jabbering and trying to get me to stay in her “hotel,” or whatever. Like other terrestrials, I’m sure, I do not like being bum-rushed at any time of day but this incident caused me to swallow my gum. The hideous hag was missing the tip of her nose; not just a tiny tip either, but an inch or more of it. She was awful to look upon; her nose was something like a hog’s snout. No, I did not stay in the woman’s place. As it turned out the gypsy may have had the only decent room in the village since I had to watch my back night and day where I did end up and actually ran down a thief I caught in my room.

Yet another time, I was walking through a park in Tangiers, Morocco. When siesta time hits in the Third World, the natives pick any place to sleep—on the grass, on sidewalks, even under parked buses and trucks whose drivers are also asleep on the seats. As I strolled along, I made the mistake of looking over at one individual spread out on a park bench. A swarm of flies was milling above the man’s head. Upon closer examination, I saw that the filthy things were also crawling inside the man’s mouth and nostrils. Either he was dead or he was a totally stoned drug addict. The fact that I still recall this scene indicates how startling the sight was on that otherwise beautiful afternoon in North Africa.

Pit Bulls in the News: Those fun-loving mutts of mayhem are at it again. Yes, two loose Pit Bulls (the only kind there are, apparently) are on doggie death row today after attempting to murder a Titusville, Florida, woman. The troublesome twosome were out having some playful canine fun yesterday when they spotted the lady and decided to engage in some harmless sport by chewing on the woman’s legs for several minutes. Unfortunately for the fun-seeking duo, dog cops arrived and put an end to the mad-cap mischief. The culprits were hauled away while the owner was fined $500 for the attack, plus he was given a whopping $55 ticket for failure to secure his lovable canines.

“My dogs are the most sweet-natured pets you could have,” said the confused owner as he shook his head and took another guzzle from his beer. “They are very gentle with the kids.  I don’t know what happened.”


Cars of the Future