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Published: February 11th 2008
Aruba - known to me solely from its brief mention in the Beach Boys song, Kokomo. Its one of the many gorgeous islands in the carribean thats been converted into a tourist haven, and thus is the constant abode of overweight americans with oversized wallets looking to further increase their girth by lazing about and eating all day.
I was in Aruba for a conference - funny how serious conferences are held in holiday destinations all too often! The conference was in the swanky Marriot resort, isolated towards the nothern tip of the small island. There isn't much to do in Aruba, apart from soaking up some rays, maxxing out the credit card, and packing on the hip fat. Thankfully, I had a rental car, so I had a bit more freedom than some of the other conference delegates to explore the island.
I had barely been in Aruba for more than twenty minutes before I almost was killed. How's that for foreshadowing! But its true. I was happily driving the hotel when I came upon a major traffic jam leading into the capital, Oranjestad. I cleverly decided to duck down some side roads, not knowing that many roads
in that vicinity were one-way and didn't follow any sensible ordering. Soon I found myself heading down a narrow street, lined by dilapidated concrete excuse-for-houses, when suddenly a dark skinned local yells 'hey!!'. I peek out the window to see a gaunt, red-eyed guy gesturing to me that I was going down the wrong way of a one-way street. So I proceeded to do a three point turn, when suddenly the door opens and I find the guy sitting beside me smiling cheekily. 'Can I help you', he asks. Quickly I mentally add up the total amount in my wallet and credit cards, and decide my life is worth more than that. I'm waiting for the knife to emerge, or worse still a gun. But all he does is lay back in the seat and start direction me, telling me that tourists get lost all too often.
Its then that I notice the faraway look in his eyes, the dilated pupils and the red soar eyes. Coupled with his verbal slurring, I conclude that he's drugged out. Okay, so he's a junky, and he's going to direct me to some dark alley, then rob me, because he needs a
fix. Worse still, possibly he's going to drive me to his pals, where they're going to knock me out, steal my kidneys, slice off my legs and sell them to the local butcher, and possibly snip off an ear or two. Oh man!!!
I calmly try to tell the guy that I should be okay getting back to the main strip, trying to gently shoo him out of the car - I mean, you don't want to get these guys too worked up - they could whip out that aids-infested heroine syringe anytime and jab you just for fun. But he refuses, smiling and saying he loves to help people. Saying a quick prayer, I start to drive, following his directions, just hoping that possibly there was a remote chance he was legitimate.
Turns out he wasn't that bad, because within 1 minute, we're back in the main town. Okay so he can't bash me anymore .... but surely he's got something else up his sleeve. As we pull up outside a large shopping strip, I stop the car and tell him that I should be fine from here. I tell a 'white lie' and say that my four 'large, muscly and imposing friends who just stepped out to look at some very large dumbbells' should be coming along any moment, and so thank you very much for your help but I should be fine from here. But he smiles again, refuses to jump out and says he'll wait for my friends, because, he says 'there are some strange people around here, and I don't want anything bad to happen to you' - how ironic.
Looking around, I notice that there's a fairly decent crowd - so stabbing me is hopefully less likely. So I pluck up a bit of courage and get a bit forceful, telling him that its fine, and could he please leave me. Its at this point that he looks a bit hurt, and starts to climb out. Should I give him money, I think? No, he'll probably run off with my wallet, or chop off my hand with the wallet still in it. But then he sits down again, locks the door and says he wants to exchange contact details. I slip him a fake phone number, just hoping to get him out as quick as possible. Alas, he doesn't have any paper to write his number. So he decides instead to try to burn his number into the dashboard of the car. Whips out his cigarette lighter and starts melting. That's when I lose it and tell him he's crazy and could he please get out of my car!! He seems apologetic, but then makes one last offer, asking me if I'm after any girls. Because if I was, he has a good friend that runs a chicken shop, and that I should drop past at night, because the chicken shop turns into a fun place after 9pm. What a crazy!!
Anyway, he finally gets out of the car, after which I lock the door, flip on the engine and get the heck out of their. For the rest of my time in Aruba, the doors stayed firmly shut, no matter where I was! Welcome to Aruba!
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