Bored women, guns, and the company that owns you; in Costa Rica.
I walked up to the harbor in Paquera, Costa Rica, unexpectedly up to my dripping armpits in happy-grumpy-sweaty white people. Most had rented cars, but a few backpackers were sprinkled in, though somehow none had been on the bus. Gringos panted in their cars, feet on the dash, or sprawled under awnings emblazoned with (surprise surprise) Coke ads.
If there’s an awning, umbrella, or pavilion on the beach, street, or edge of the desert, it probably has a familiar red logo. When I left Morocco the only words I could write in Arabic were “coca-cola.” Babies in Guatemala were drinking it in their baby bottles, cans littered the riverbanks in the Kathmandu Valley, and were among the few items on the sparse shelves of the grocery store outside Lusaka, Zambia.
That company owns the world, it just hasn’t bothered to officially notify you.
Everything smelled of meat, from the never-cleaned restaurant grill to the drips on charcoal fires of the carts outside, but no one was eating in the heat. Cars drove onto the ferry, first disgorging cranky princesses in tube tops, vociferously unhappy about being forced to leave their air-conditioned vehicles.
I remembered the workmen on the bus, smiling in the stifling air, the only shade they’d get during a day spent digging in the dusty fields.
Recorded boarding announcements played first in Spanish, then in English. The woman’s voice was professional, but by the fourth repetition I could hear the undertones of boredom, scorn, and derision in her words.
She tried not to scold when she said “If you are in the main room, you must have on a shirt. Do not lie down or put your feet on the seats.” I could viscerally feel her desire to add “dumbass” between the two sentences.
Also. “Do not throw food or garbage to the birds. In addition, do not throw food or garbage to the birds.” I wonder how she felt while recording that little gem. Far too tired to correct it, obviously.
I wish I could buy this woman a beer.
For my part, comfortable in the warm shade under a sky that blue, with a land-and-waterscape so beautiful all around and nothing to do but enjoy it, I just sat back, glowing softly inside. Hell, I wish I could buy everyone a beer. Or better yet, an horchata. I mean, a coke! Heh heh, sorry Overlords, I meant a coke. Please don’t liquefy me and sell me in Zambia.
Pelicans floated in the green water or sat on the weatherworn dock of rough squared timbers, their periodic shits dissolving in white clouds below. An awkward teenage girl balanced a Dora the Explorer doll on the railing and took a picture, glancing frequently at the pack of teenage boys with the gelled mini-mohawks of a generation inspired by Ronaldo. Were they looking?
Behind me a group of American expat retirees discussed fishing, then guns. One guy with an Alabama drawl scorned the Argentinean pistol he was unable to fix.
“The damn thing stopped workin! I opent ’er up and there was ‘bout a thousand little parts in thar. I took ‘em all out, cleaned ’em up and put ’em back in, but I had about five left over! Afore we left I threw the damn thing in the mangroves.”
Another man consoled him. “I got a friend a-coming down soon who’s a-gonna bring me five or six pistols to see. I reckon I’ll bag three or four of ’em, but you’re welcome to come along and take a look at the rest.”
They discussed associates who could probably get rid of a body. “Oh, Pedro? Hell yeah, he could do it.” Then the crustiest one chipped in about his skin problems.
“I git these sores alla time. It’ll start like a mosquito bite, then it’ll git a whole lot worse. See these dry spots?” He pointed a few out, his companions peering through their bifocals. “They’d prolly go away if I stopped diggin at ’em…” I could hear the sound of his dry fingernails rasping across the skin.
Another guy, with a voice like a calm sportscaster (if there is such a thing) responded “Y’oughtta get them looked at. See this here? That’s skin cancer. I gots lots of ‘em.”
Just a typical day on the ferry, teenage boys preening, gun-running expats comparing melanomas, and a backpacker sitting back in the sun enjoying the circus.