June 23, 2008
Have you ever lived in South America? I lived in Chile for two years, from December of 1984 to October of 1986, during the middle of Pinochet’s illustrious reign. Exciting times. Every month or so, there would be a general strike, and we would have to stay inside for a day or two, and we would go to sleep to the sound of gunfire and bombs and tanks in the street. In fact, once we had to duck into the bathroom of the house we were living in, because it was the only room with cinder block walls, and the bullets were coming through the plywood of the rest of the house.
I watched mud houses collapse in a major earthquake, entered a creaky six floor hospital to salvage medical supplies during aftershocks, got soaked with an anti-riot water canon (the dreaded Guanaco), and was even chased by a USA hating mob that was burning overturned cars.
But my most memorable experience in Chile? Mr. Green Jeans.
Mr. Green Jeans, a nice kid from Brigham City, UT, had been in country for about a week (I was going on 20 months), and his digestive system still lacked the fortitude required to eat and drink local cuisine, including whatever bugs happened to crawl in your mouth while you slept, or your food while you ate. Green Jeans was having trouble keeping his food on the inside.
Of course, we all had that trouble off and on. In the most common way to greet a fellow Gringo in Santiago, we would announce the state of our colon, rushing up and saying “Dude! I’m solid!” Because we had all spent an evening or two being followed down streets by dogs intensely interested in the contents of our underwear. Went with the territory. You just hoped the locals didn’t notice. Yeah, right.
But Mr. Green Jeans, well, his introduction to life in Chile was a bit more abrupt. More spectacular. And much more entertaining.
We left our house in the middle of a pleasant summer day, heading for the bus stop, looking to go pick up our mail downtown. The bus stop was about a 15 minute walk from our door, and about halfway there, Green Jeans suddenly stopped, and got that look on his face, like Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, when he asks if he can go to the bathroom. Frozen in place, GJ was trapped, knowing if he moved or relaxed, there would be little he could do to stem the flood.
Sometimes, by grace, we would be saved, and the moment would pass. We called those moments “Intervals.” If you were lucky enough to get an interval, you damn well better take advantage. GJ got an interval, but would it be enough? Ya think?
“Let’s Go!” I barked, grabbing his arm, dragging him down the sidewalk, toward a grocery store that might have a toilet he could use.
But after a few steps, he froze again. Except, by this time his load had settled, and no amount of squeezing could save him. From behind, I saw a dark splotch appear in the center rear of his unfortunately colored light gray pants, a splotch that quickly grew lighter, and bigger.
And GJ lost his nerve, and ran. Rookie mistake.
As he sprinted up the sidewalk, trying to get home, the splotch covered his ass, ran down his leg, and appeared at his socks. He actually shed bright green debris out the bottom of his pants as he ran. He took off his backpack, held it comically, pathetically, over his butt and kept running.
He sputtered and cried as he stumbled along. “I’VE CRAPPED MY PANTS AND EVERYONE CAN SEE IT!” he yelled, in English. Which was certainly true.
I tried to keep up, but I was slowed considerably on account of not being able to breathe from laughing so hard. At one point, I had to sit down on the sidewalk to catch my breath.
When I finally caught up with him at the house, he had jumped in the shower, fully clothed. We ended up throwing his clothes away.
Welcome to Chile man. How long do you have left?