I don't know if any of you remember a post I wrote a few months ago about my little One Percent? This One Percent is my voice of wisdom, the remnants of what once was a timid and cautious little person, and I routinely ignore the little whispers and nudges it gives me. Silly Cheasty. I should know better.
Lately my One Percent has been on something of a winning streak, and I really ought to just start tuning in a little more carefully, for in the past 24 hours, my One Percent tried to save me from not one, not two, but THREE experiences that were in turn bizarre, painful, and seriously frightening. I know I've said this before, and I know I'll renege and end up having to say it again, but One Percent, I hereby swear to listen up a little closer. I promise.
First was the Yoga class. Honestly, how many times have I attended a yoga class in Latin America in hopes of a spiritual and physical excercise, only to end up feeling like an extra in an Olivia Newton-John music video? Yoga down here means absolutely nothing. Well, that's not true. It means that you'll jump around and flail your arms in imitation of a 1970s calisthenics class, probably throw out your back, tweak your neck, and sprain an ankle, all while the instructor exhorts you to even greater extremes of ergonomically inefficient athletic recklessness. And yet I remain optimistic. So I was over at the Universidad de Centroamerica and I saw a flier on the wall. It advertised Hatha Yoga. "Oooh, Hatha Yoga," I thought. "That sounds wonderful! I should definitely go." My One Percent chimed in. "Cheasty, you're an idiot. Don't go to this yoga class, it will just be a disaster and you'll hurt yourself." "Nonsense!" my Brave Voice responded. "It says Hatha Yoga. This indicates that the instructor has studied something of the different forms of yoga, and this will clearly be an exciting and dynamic experience." My One Percent shrugged its shoulders and gave up, knowing I was past hope at this point. Gah. It was just as bad as I'd imagined. Worse, actually, because the instructor took personal offense to the idea that I refused to do what she told me when I considered it potentially harmful to my health, and physically compelled me to do what she wanted. I wish you were all here so that I could somehow demonstrate the movements she encouraged, but that's impossible, so let me just say she was in favor of rapid, jerky movements that cause whiplash and lumbar subluxation. "No, hija!" she exhorted me. "Like this!" And SHE SLAPPED ME OVER THE HEAD. Like this! And she SHOVED MY CHIN UP SO MY HEAD WOULD SNAP BACK FASTER. Like this! And she yanked my arm so hard it almost came off in her hand. I'm sorry, One Percent. I should have listened.
Then, and this is just a small thing, but it was really painful. I put on my shoes this morning. Shoes I haven't worn since March. "Ooh, cute!" I thought. And my One Percent tapped me on the shoulder. "Um, Cheasty? It's been a while. Might these shoes give you blisters?" Why didn't I listen?! Instead I traipsed blithely along, not worrying at all about the future, and within ten minutes of leaving the house I had open oozing gaping wounds on the backs of my heels (I never exaggerate), and not a band-aid in sight. I might need stitches. If only I'd listened to my One Percent, I could have danced and flitted and twinkled my toes all over town today in a spirit of joyful glee. Instead, I spent the whole darn day tiptoeing and flat-footing and limping around like something out of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, and I didn't even know anybody with whom I could laugh about it! Oh, salt in the wound. I'm sorry, One Percent. I should have listened.
The third thing is this. Mom, Dad, stop reading. Skip to the end, or log off entirely, but don't read this. Since coming to Managua I've been given many many pieces of advice on how to avoid death, dismemberment, and violent crime. One of those pieces of advice was to never ever get in a taxi that you don't know. Everybody here has a list of taxi drivers that they trust, and they call them to the house for a pickup. But, if for some reason you get in a taxi that you don't know, negotiate ahead of time that the taxi driver not stop along the way to pick up other riders. And if for some reason he does stop to pick up other riders, you get out. But here's the thing. Nobody told me what to do if it's pouring rain and all the taxis that stop for you already have passengers in them. And did I mention that it's pouring rain. Monsoon rains. Build-yourself-an-ark rains. I swear, I waited. In that horrific downpour, with my wimpy little umbrella leaking and the wind trying to blow it inside out, and passing cars splashing puddles up on my legs, I waited. And finally I gave up. A taxi approached with a female passenger wearing a bank uniform and she looked pretty normal, so even though my One Percent said, "Oh, this is not a good idea, Cheasty," I got in. Let me state straight off the bat that I'm fine, nothing terrible happened, I didn't get robbed or hurt in any way. But Jesus Cristo was that taxi driver scary. I got in the car and the driver hit the lock buttons, and yelled at me for getting the seats of his car wet. I apologized, which was stupid because a) it was raining, and b) with a human being as foul-tempered as this dude was, appeasement is never the right answer. He pretty much oozed meanness, and all I could think about was if there were any women or children in his life, poor them. He looked like a beater. When the other passenger tried to make small talk with me, he shot her a dirty look and turned up his music to ear-splitting levels. The lyrics were horrific. Something along the lines of "come to my dirty bed you pox-ridden whore, and let me beat you up while you call me Papi." That's a summary, of course, as I've thankfully blanked on the actual lyrics. Then he turned to take the other woman to her destination, which he told me at first was just "a little out of the way," and we ended up on the completely opposite side of Managua where I had no idea where we were or how to get back and it looked like a sketchy part of town, and then, of course, I was alone in the car with Evil Taxi Man and his oozing simmering meanness and horrible offensive music and slimy looking hair. Eventually he got around to taking me home, though we did pause for a few heart-stopping moments for him to pull over to a street vendor and buy some cigarettes, not that he bothered to inform me as to why we were waving down a strange man in tattered clothes on the side of the street. Ugh. Eventually I realized that he wasn't actually going to kill me, and chances were good I'd get home alive and intact, at which point I relaxed enough to get angry. I mean, what the ever-loving hell was his problem? Why on earth be so unpleasant to somebody who's trusting you to shuttle them around safely? I've never in my life been so glad to get out of a taxi, and by the time we got to my destination I was just mad enough to be stupid again, so I gave him a big phony smile and told him that I hoped he would have an absolutely WONDERFUL rest of his day, and how much I'd enjoyed his lovely smile. Dumb, I know, but satisfying. In a really good story he would have laughed or at the very least apologized, but he just sneered and drove away. I'm sorry, One Percent. I should have listened.
I feel like here I should put in a small note to defend the integrity of most Managuan taxi drivers, all of whom, up until this guy, have been personable, professional, and polite. Also, I should probably apologize one more time to my One Percent, as I've been drinking the tap water, which as of yet hasn't backed up on me in any meaningful way, but One Percent is just waiting to say 'I told you so, Cheasty. Why don't you ever listen?!"