Randol was my guide on a recent trip in Nicaragua. His job is to take tourists up treacherous paths so they can lay their claim on Trip Advisor to climbing peaks of volcanic mountains. Randol is also a dad, ex-husband of two and about 35. With the few dollars he has made through tourism, he has bought himself a piece of land, built a sturdy hut, planted a few banana trees and – by default of feeding them regularly – adopted a couple of stray dogs.
The morning of our meeting, he came to pick me up, looking sort of glum, but maybe it was just the reflection of how I was feeling faced with an 8 hour hike. It did end up to be the second most difficult physical challenge (childbirth still ranks first) in my 39-year-old life. By the time we got up and down the mountain, I had avoided slipping to my demise dozens of times, repeatedly fallen down on my behind, injured my leg twice, and made my next plan with Randol. Two days later we were going to go on a 15-km bike ride to another part of the island. Nearing absolute exhaustion, we parted ways that day as I retreated to a shower, a double mojito and the sunbed for the rest of the afternoon.
That day I had pleasant thoughts of Randol. He was somewhat shy. Calm as a cucumber up on that freaky climb. Patient. Extremely knowledgeable about his environment. I liked him. I was looking forward to our bike ride together two days later.
And then it all changed. The next day I ventured into the nearby village for dinner. As I entered the restaurant, I was greeted not by the waiter, or the owner who had just opened his restaurant that week, but Randol. Except that Randol was loud and somewhat wild. Upon seeing me, he threw up his arms, got up from behind his table, staggered over, threw those wild arms around me, and called out a boozy Holaaaa Vienaaaa! And then he proceeded to invite himself to the table I went and sat at.
Oh boy. Had I been tipsy too, sitting with Randol in that little restaurant, lulled by the cozy, tropical warmth, I may have enjoyed his drunken monologue. I may have grabbed onto his monologue to engage in my own. But instead, a little flustered, I picked up my phone, told him that I needed to call my son, and then had the first and really long fake conversation with no one. I held that phone to my ear, spoke actual, real sentences in Polish, in hopes that Randol would go back to his own seat.
But it was not to be. Instead, he ordered another beer, then wobbled on behind me, and asked the waiter to put his new beer on my bill! What! My ears perked up tall as I listened to what ensued. The waiter refused his request but Randol kept on trying to convince him. HE said, “But she took one of my cigarettes!” This was comical. And unfortunate.
Suddenly, I did not think the same of Randol anymore. I felt a little betrayed. A little saddened. I politely asked Randol to leave me to myself and reminded him that we were meeting the next day for our bike ride. He walked away ignorant of my disappointment.
Now I am getting to my point. You see, I became very perplexed after the Randol ploy took place. I did not and still do not fully understand why it is that when I walk through a Canadian shopping mall, where everything is engineered to treat me like a walking ATM, from the excess oxygen pumped into the air, to the perfume that distinguishes one store from another, the obvious fake smiles, the pumped up prices, or the pseudo-discounts, hidden costs… why is it that these shameless schemes don’t bother me? Why is it that a villager in a developing country who tries to better his lot with a little ruse bothers me more than a mega corporation trying to add an extra 0 to their annual revenue, in part, on my account?
I still don’t know. But the reflection changed my attitude. I still like Randol. I think he is a cool cat.