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May 27, 2024

Good Morning? 02

By Lydia Manx

I slipped back into the memories of my trip to Indonesia, and the crazy substitute teacher lady on the tour bus that I'd been trapped on, in the retched heat coupled with the constant babbling of the somewhat deranged woman. We'd been stopped at a local watering hole and tourist trap when I'd noticed the stupid teacher swilling from a re-purposed bottle of water she'd just purchased for pennies from a local. She'd mistakenly thought it was 'clean' water when anyone not blind could tell it was unfiltered water put into a previously used container. The murky color of the water alone was clear warning as far as I knew. I'd automatically asked her if she was taking malaria meds and she'd snottily informed me that malaria no longer existed and she'd been swilling the crap water for an aspirin. It seemed that the current Los Angeles substitute teachers didn't have to be very knowledgeable about much. I did wonder what she taught but I definitely wasn't stupid enough to ask her. I didn't care to be lectured and that seemed to be her only response to pointed questions. Ten-minute lectures about nothing worthwhile and not actually ever answering what it was she'd been asked. It was more than a bit obnoxious. It was all I could do to not pop out of there and be far, far and away.

The teacher audibly gasped and raised her left hand, pointing her narrow forefinger while wagging it back and forth rudely at the boy, "Young man, you are absolutely wrong. When I was on my cruise last year, in Mexico you know," we all knew because she'd talked at great length about how savage the locals had been and how lousy their food had been, after all what with baby goat and chili peppers being offered, which we gathered from all her stories both hadn't been on her list of favorite menu items she droned on, "And the nice doctor told me I didn't have to worry about malaria anymore. So there!" She actually made a harrumph noise. I didn't realize anyone over the age of ninety-plus even made that noise, and she wasn't even near ninety yet and with her delusions about the current health issues that didn't seem like something she'd ever attain. Hell, if she lasted another ten days I'd be surprised. But then stupid always seemed to rise to the top and survive. Go figure.

"Ma'am, what the doctor meant was that on the cruise ship there wasn't much of a chance to get sick with malaria. They spray very heavily for mosquitoes, but that doesn't mean that malaria has been eradicated." He never raised his voice but simply stated a fact.

The young man answering hadn't dropped his camera while replying to the substitute teacher's comment. She'd stated with such conviction that on a cruise she'd been told malaria didn't exist because she'd taken the cruise ship doctor's off the cuff remark to mean that it had been 'cured' -- then she'd went on to say that the plague was gone as well as tuberculosis. Obviously to me the woman wasn't very well informed.

"That's highly doubtful," had been the young man's reply; her lack of correct information was obvious to him as well.

Once the man's somewhat snarky comment sunk in, I could have sworn that the woman doubled in size at the perceived challenge of her personal knowledge.

He added, "Seriously, come on, you really haven't taken any malaria pills? Are you at least drinking gin and tonics?" It was well known that tonic water had quinine and certain malaria pills were made of quinine. I thought it was funny that the kid was still trying to keep a straight face while the substitute teacher gasped for a response.

Her face was florid and her pupils tightened into pinpoints of black. Glaring while still wagging her index finger at the film crew she said, "Well, I never."

"So I gathered." He, too, couldn't resist a quick poke. His two traveling companions grinned and nudged each other in the ribs.

Her niece's hands fluttered and she looked a tad wild-eyed as she said, "What do we do?"

Oops, I guess the gene pool was fairly shallow in that family. Not exactly a big shock come to think of it. I watched the woman as she twisted the now empty water bottle in her hands. Her agitation was beginning to outweigh her self-grandiose bragging.

"Hope that no mosquitoes decide to bite you?" Came the sardonic rejoinder followed by an accentuating slap as a mosquito -- as luck would have it -- landed on the kid's right shoulder apparently taunting the pair of women. I noticed his camera didn't waver a millimeter from its focus in the lens nicely framing the two women who were starting to get a bit more hysterical as he slapped the insect again as it tried to light on his face. The slap was slightly mocking yet effective. The bug died.

A more immediate issue I saw for the lady was going to be whatever was in the water she'd downed -- protozoa, bacterial or other. As it was, she was flushed red with anger and ready to spew vile words at the young man standing before her as if he was to blame for her stupidity. I didn't need to be a mind reader -- it was written in every line of her stiff body.

"You rude little child. I think you are making all this up just to upset us." It was then that she noticed the unblinking red dot on top of the camera. The Los Angeles woman couldn't figure out how to make bricks but saw a small red light and immediately grasped the ramifications. Hollywood had obviously sunk into her brain more than basic health and science. All I could think was that she must be a sparkling teacher or the one that the kids regularly tormented.

She let out a shrill shriek that caused some nearby monkeys to scream in horror. After that shriek, my vote was that she wore a 'kick me' sign on her back regularly while teaching. LA kids weren't all sweet and cute like other towns. They were raised with a whole different level of wants and desires. GPA meant less than GPS and a luxury ride. The monkeys were in the rainforest that edged alongside the cut-out in the road by the tourist shack, well hidden from sight, but they were really noisy. She screamed again pointing now down at the camera trained up at her and the monkeys joined her again in a rather piercing chorus. My ears weren't happy. From the sound of the primates they weren't any happier. Their shrieks were pain-filled and loud.

"You are making me look bad for a movie!" Drama laced her words, as she was beyond simply over-wrought and absolutely angry. I bit back a grin because she'd looked stupid and bad long before the cameras were even rolling. This wasn't her first dance and she was all about her.

But I had to give her props for finally figuring out something, but she was wrong -- they hadn't created the situation; her own stupidity had generated the incident -- it was all her own doing and she wasn't going to own it. Also it was rapidly becoming an incident at the least -- and how the crew edited it was possibly going to be a major bit of theatre. After watching how the film crew didn't reply to her but flashed each other wide grins, I readjusted my thinking. They knew she was going to totally lose it -- and they'd get it all on film and up on YouTube before nightfall, I guessed, skipping the documentary bit they'd originally planned.

My brain was rapidly talking to me saying, "Emma, keep out of this." But I still wanted to comment. I mentally bit my tongue and kept my thoughts to myself.

Correctly interpreting the building anger of his tour group our guide reluctantly came out from the air-conditioned SUV 'bus' to see exactly why everyone was standing around and gaping while the teacher was hopping up and down squealing. Her niece, Sherry, on the other hand had a half-witted smile on her lips as she somewhat preened for the camera. Yeah, she definitely was from La-La land, aka Los Angeles. I never caught what it was she exactly did for a living but I'd figured her for a hostess or waitress from the thick unnecessary application of cosmetics in the heat and humidity of Indonesia. Now I adjusted that job to add a 'slash actress' to the title.

Our guide, who'd earlier asked us to all call him Johnny, which I severely doubted was his given name since I'd overheard one of the 'cousins' at the shack call him Mohammad and he'd automatically answered her and not in English, then quickly hustled the cousin away from us with soft whispers and quick-fingered pinches. It was interesting that when the young girl came back she was rubbing her bruised skin and looking around slowly saying, 'Yes, Johnny' but in a slightly mocking tone. I knew that Indonesia was a mixture of cultures and religions and hadn't thought of Mohammad as being in any way unusual but with the mostly American tour group there had to be some ignorant people who judged the world and those with unfamiliar or religious names. Johnny was dressed in dark cotton slacks and a cream colored shirt -- all the tour guides wore that who were part of the tour company. He seemed overdressed by comparison to the group that he was guiding. We wore basically a mish-mash of light fabrics, of course, having figured out the local weather once we'd arrived. Hot, sticky and very wet was the forecast before the monsoon rains hit.

The teacher and her niece were in tank tops and khaki shorts which caused some problems at various temples on the tour. Women entering such sights as the temples were supposed to be properly covered at all times without their arms showing and certainly not with their legs flashing for anyone to see. Johnny practically lost his mind throwing tents of materials over the two amidst their protesting. They hadn't read any of the informational material provided by the tour group about the local customs and expectations. A no-brainer as far as I was concerned -- when in Rome and all.

During the trip I'd seen many people dressed in Muslim garb as well as folks wearing the more traditional Indonesian wear. Men wore what appeared to be skirts to the uninformed; in fact the substitute teacher had asked Johnny about the clothing quite loudly at one point. The wrap around cloth was called a kain. The men wore them without shirts in the smaller villages we'd passed or with bright colored batik shirts. I'd even seen some of the younger boys wearing them with cotton t-shirts sporting slogans and names of rock bands -- obvious tourist donations or seconds from the local factories. There were many companies that produced shirts, shoes and handbags sold in America that weren't precisely made in America much less by any American companies directly -- not that the American stores linked with the local producers ever confessed to that little factoid. What the locals were wearing were the cast-offs, flawed and substandard bits and pieces of clothing that ended up staying in the originating country.

I noticed that Johnny was all smiles and nods until the Auntie began to scream again. Beads of sweat immediately dotted the guide's face as he tried to figure out why 'Auntie' had been hopping up and down. He looked frantically around to see if there was anything wrong and given that he couldn't see blood he tried to listen carefully to the rants flowing from her mouth. I had to give him props for trying. He hadn't clued into the fact she was pretty much nuts like I had, but then I had more experience with crazy in my life than he'd ever see.

"These hooligans are filming me!" She finally spit out after some less than clear utterances. 'Hooligans' was an old-fashioned term but then I'd noticed that the woman's speech hadn't been exactly typical of her age, much less where she'd supposedly come from before the trip. She acted like she had been born in the thirties or earlier, not mid-forties like she'd admitted and she definitely was not born in California. She wasn't laid back in the least, much less 'cool'. Which was part of the reason I still wondered if she was a magical sawdust-filled construct. Her brain was definitely filled with marshmallow.

"Ma'am, you signed a release when you joined the tour at a greatly reduced price," Johnny slowly pointed out while not quite meeting her gaze.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-10-01
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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