Stalking the Average Man
The speed of the double rip-off cued Robbie to perils unseen, and he jerked me back a step
that surprise had me stumble into two and half before he steadied me. -Tick fucking tock, | he
hissed; I shut the hell up as the pieces came together for me.
Tick: a guerrilla, terrorist, or freedom fighter by any name, kills people. If his side loses,
he‘s a murderer. If he wins, tock, he becomes the minister of defense. During the transitional
bloodbath, there is no practical difference between groups and we were definitely in the
The officials exchanged pleased glances over my public diminishing, and processing us
became silently efficient, and moronically transparent when they confiscated our chalecos –
bullet-proof vests: the senior man claimed the guerrillas would go for a head shot, then take them
from our corpses. Confiscating them actually made things safer for us.
My protesting of his rational ensured that their inspection of our equipment cases was
meticulous, 'In case there are other things the guerrillas can use, signor.‘
One official would tisk over an item, another would confirm the problem, their boss with
the Yankee's jersey would raise an accusatory eye, and we would both nod our appreciation that
we weren't being arrested for trying to smuggle toiletries into El Salvador...
Mad Max‘s water purification pills and Tylenol went into a milk crate bin behind the
inspection table, shortly after his Cottonelle disappeared under the examining table. Brian was
allowed to keep his contact lens solution, after he put some in his eyes to prove that is what it
was, as well as a pre-squeezed tube of hemorrhoid ointment, the use of which they did not
require him to demonstrate. Leblanc lost nothing he didn't plan on losing, because the carton of
smokes was a plant intended to influence how our equipment would be inspected.
As it turned out, the Yankee‘s shirt went to the right guy: every country requires an
import/export carnet—copious forms listing serial numbers and the value of each piece of
equipment. More often than not, officials pointed to a few expensive items and asked us to prove
that they work. If they didn‘t ask, the inspection could be lengthy; five hours was our personal
record. To avoid bettering this time, while junior agents finished sorting through our personal
items for their family‘s benefit LeBlanc took our paperwork to their boss, and mimed the
suggestion that he first look at the items listed on page two. Walking a few steps away, the
official turned the cover page, pondered the list as if it was a Zen riddle, then still facing away he
said, -Camera. |
Robbie didn't have it out of the case before the official said, -You go. |
Resting the carnet on an empty examining table, he stamped and signed the temporary
import sheet, while his underlings stopped their search and motioned for us to pass through.
"Fuckin good guys, | LeBlanc chortled, as we pushed three heavily laden carts out of the
Loading our gear into a red Volkswagen va n, out of earshot of our driver Max asked Rob
what he had said to the supervisor to hasten our departure and LeBlanc came clean. Max must
have damaged something internally to create the kind of hiss that came with his refusal to
authorize the bribe. Rob shrugged ; looking appreciatively at the setting sun he wistfully said,
-Might not fuckin matter. |
We finished loading our gear within a strained silence, stacking cases so that when we were
done only our driver, Carlos, and Rob could see out of the front window. We drove into the
guerrilla‘s gathering darkness toward the good guy's curfew. Tick fucking tock.
On the way, dust, dimness, and suddenly braking for suspension cracking holes on the
broken road had Rob swearing for reasons we could not see, and he did not explain. This