…speriamo che non caghi.
For obvious reasons, this Italian phrase (‘In the ass of the whale…we’re hoping he doesn’t shit’) was running through my head two days ago when I jumped in the water with an eight-meter-long whale shark. I just learned that phrase a couple of weeks ago from a friend who’d been in Italy–she even wrote it on a little Post-It note and gave it to me, and it’s in my bag right now. Sort of a good-luck charm.
But, no shitting, and even more luckily, no biting on the part of these giant animals. I grew up in a landlocked state and saw ‘Jaws’ at a very tender age. I’ve never been a strong swimmer. The last time I went snorkeling was seven years ago in the Red Sea, and I nearly hyperventilated because I had this crazy reef all bristling with critters and poky things on one side, and the deep, dark sea off to the other. Humans don’t belong in the water. So I was surprised and pleased that I was able to just jump in next to this shark (a kind of shark known for its mellowness, but a shark with big nasty gills and that creepy underbite nonetheless) and not totally panic. I think I clung to my guide Andres with a little more urgency than the savvy Swedes who were on the tour with me, but I didn’t flail about too much, and I did just get to hang there and have my field of vision completely filled with black-and-white spots as the thing cruised by. I won’t be taking a scuba course anytime soon, but it’s comforting to know that growth and change are possible.
In other news, Holbox continued to be relatively mosquito-free and filled with small-town charm. In the plaza on my second night, some toothless guy in a dapper hat was running the Mexican lottery dice game on the corner. Someone else was selling bootleg CDs. The whole place buzzed with late-summer laziness. I woke up early in the morning to catch the 7am ferry and the 7.30am bus back to Cancun, feeling like I was doing pretty well so far.
But a few hours later, when I waltzed into the Hertz office to pick up my rental car, that’s when the whale finally took its dump. I chatted with the guy, Luis, who remembered me from last time, and handed over my license to start the process. Luis starts typing in my address, which is my old address from when I first got my NY license. This reminds me that my license is expired and I’ve got two months, till September 14, to fix it–I whip out my Palm and start writing myself a note. Luis interrupts me to say, ‘I’m sorry, but your license is expired.’ ‘Yeah, I know, I was just—oh. Shit.’
Total disconnect. For a couple of months I’ve been thinking I needed to renew my license, but in my car-free NYC bubble, I just totally forgot that that had any ramifications in the real world. I forgot that a driver’s license was for driving, and not just for passing around at the dinner table to show what a ridiculously awful picture they took of you. (For this reason alone, I need to get a new license–I look like a semi-retarded dust bowl refugee.)
Luis advised I go try to buy a Mexican driver’s license, but by the time I got out to the main police station, out in big-box land, between the Wal-Mart and the Carrefour hypermart, they’d closed for the day. I was impressed they’d been open at all on a Saturday.
So all I did was flee town and send pleading messages to Peter to come down and drive me around–he’d been offering to anyway, but then he started feeling like he should prepare for his _job_. Har. (Never mind that I had basically just failed miserably at my own job. I would fire me.)
Now I’m in Playa del Carmen, waiting to see if Peter will be the chauffeur, and re-planning my trip by bus. But I haven’t gotten too far–last night at the shrimp taco place, just as I opened my map to start planning, I got chatted up by an American guy at the next table. He turned out to be nice despite his opening line: ‘Hey, are you American?’ We had a few drinks, including one in a hilarious Goth bar–the anti beach bar in every way–so I could sleep better in the hostel full of giant Swedes.
It’s a brand-new day–the perfect time to start swabbing up the whale shit and checking bus schedules.