Whist travelling one tends to meet many different people. Many different interesting people. I find this is to be especially true when travelling alone. For me it’s one of the main reasons I flee the mundane repetition of my everyday life and seek alternate horizons/experiences.
Luckily, I’ve been blessed to meet so many epic randoms in my travels: Connor the Highlander; with his Irish drinking powers, Elliot the Brit; master of the wry observation, Kara; German house frau supreme, Agung; The Balinese bar god of mischief, Miss Dynamite; the savvy Canadian volunteer, Reggie; the Rastafarian Jesus from Holland, Oni; the most beautiful waitress in all of Indonesia.
All amazing people that have, in one way or another, left a lasting impression on me.
Occasionally you meet someone who is not very interesting at all; at least not to anyone other than themselves. I met someone like this today.
I was watching the world spin by in a rustic Balinese warung/café/bar, as is my way, when I heard a very heavy accent reach into my reverie and utterly implode it with a “Hey man, what’s doin’?!”
I have no idea what that means or how to respond to it. Even if you de-compound word it, what is doing, the words still make no sense together. I offer an apprehensive “Not much man” as I look up from beneath my tattered straw hat to spy the owner of the bewildering words.
It was the same man that sat opposite me yesterday. Unfortunately I now recall him and his lack of tact distinctly. This is the same guy that completely overreacted to an old Balinese man asking him to buy a bone statue.
When an old Balinese man offers you a bone statue there are numerous socially acceptable ways to respond. Sniping “Would you like it if I came to your home and harassed you?!” isn’t one of them. As far as I can tell this warung/café/bar isn’t even this guy’s home so, aside from his unnecessary harshness and tone, I don’t even understand his logic.
When this fails to move the old man along he sneers “Being pushy isn’t helping your case. Leave.” His words were full of poison and weren’t at all helpful or playful like your humble narrators were. I immediately thought to myself “What a dick.” And promptly forgot about the man and his rudeness.
“I saw you here yesterday and thought I’d say hi” he continues. (Note to self, for future reference; What’s doin’? means hi) I give him the benefit of the doubt because I like engaging with random strangers and figure if he’s personable enough to do the same he can’t be all that bad.
We begin the usual traveller banter.
What’s your name? Jason.
Where are you from? The States.
What do you do? Web design.
How long are you here? 7 days, then off to Thailand.
What day are you on? Day 2.
He is sitting next to one mildly attractive female and one actually attractive female. Both of whom turn out to be from Holland. His familiarity with these two women initially makes me think that they are his travelling companions. After covertly observing their interactions for a while I notice the level of his friendliness isn’t reciprocated and assume the Dutch travellers just chose their seating options poorly. This theory is later proved correct when they leave and Jason tells me he’d just met them, and that they were hot.
Then it begins. The long, boring diatribe about his life. If he were intoxicated I’d totally give the man a pass. Hell, if I were drunk I’d totally give the man a pass. Alas, I’m not drunk, and neither is he, merely self important.
Here are a few choice excerpts from this most thoroughly riveting conversation…
When he notices my shiny red laptop, more specifically its brand:
“You should get a Mac man. They weigh 3 pounds,” he begins.
“True? 3 pounds?” I reply, “That is light, but I kinda shun Apple products, you know, because they’re Apple products.”
“You can still install Windows if you really want, but it’s so clunky and uses so much RAM. I love the Apple OS. It’s far more streamlined than Windows.”
“Well that’s what Steve Jobs was best at yeah?” I reply, “Taking other peoples inventions and making them seem new and more important to the masses?”
This then leads him to question my internet browser choice:
“I use Chrome as my browser, it’s so light and full of features,” he states. “You?”
“Aw man, you need to update to Chrome, it’s so much more functional. Like when you close a tab, the next tabs close button is right where your mouse pointer is. It’s awesome. Sometimes I have 134 tabs open, then when I want to find the one I want I just use the search feature! It’s pretty cool man.”
I’m not making this up; this is an actual conversation I actually had. In Bali. About web browsers.
“Why would you have 134 tabs open?” I inquire, “Porn?”
“Nah man, I like reading all kinds of news reports and things like that.”
I offer a humble, and static, “Bali is very conducive to reading. The last time I was here I read a dozen books.”
Which prompted this exchange:
“Yeah, I’ve read sooooo many books while I’ve been here. Will pass a dozen easily.”
“Of course you will. There’s a rad bookstore on the corner of the main street and that other street. On the ri…”
“Yeah, yeah. I know it. But when I read I use this…”
At this point my new best friend/antagonist produced a tablet of some description. Naturally.
“It’s great,” he claimed, “The last book I read would have weighed 4 pounds, (why is this man so obsessed with the weight of inanimate objects?) it was over a thousand pages and was hardcover. No way am I lugging that around South East Asia. And with all the others I’ve read I’d need an extra bag! And my bag is already full of my diving gear.”
I chuckle. “Of course it is.”
“Yeah man, the diving here is awesome. So much better than in Australia.”
And away. We. Go…
“How so?” At this stage I don’t even care about his answer.
“Man, the Great Barrier Reef is shit. Such a disappointment.”
“Really? The Great Barrier Reef? Not so great? Maybe they should change its name to The Shitty Barrier Reef.”
“Ha, yeah. I saw, like, 4 clown fish. Only four! I’ve seen dozens here.”
This is essentially the rhythm of how our inexplicably long conversation went. He’d bring something up, I’d respond, then he’d tell me how/why what he liked was better in every conceivable way. I’m naturally gregarious but I soon started to regret my candour with this superior in every way imaginable being.
I was also told, completely without asking, that he hadn’t had sex in over a year, that it’d been completely his choice, and that he was going to end his purportedly self imposed dry spell here in Bali. Fantastic.
There was also a soliloquy about acupuncture. For an unbroken 15 minutes this guy pontificated on the benefits of acupuncture over any other form of physical therapy.
I’m not kidding. 15 minutes.
It doesn’t sound like a long time, and isn’t if you’re in a strip club, but when you’re listening to a complete stranger pontificate about something you care nothing about it seems like an endless stream of ants are crawling up your urethra.
For 15 minutes.
This was followed by a completely enthralling diatribe about the joys of massage, and how he recently walked out on a less than satisfactory massage without paying. Here in Bali. My hero.
By this stage I was done. I no longer had any interest in anything this man had to say. That didn’t stop the barrage of self importance though. The jetstream of bullshit was unstoppable. Almost. Eventually his energy petered out, or he noticed my dwindling attention, and before leaving somewhat abruptly, he invited me to join him later in the eve at a nearby bar.
Only a fool would accept that invitation.
Finding myself riding around randomly on my motorbike, later in the eve, I happen to pass Captain America “entertaining” another random girl at the aforementioned nearby bar. Now, I’m not sure what came over me, perhaps my inner superhero compelled me to save his latest victim or maybe I have some latent masochistic tendencies. Regardless, I pull over, dismount, and make my way directly to the bar and order a beer. If I’m to survive another encounter with the Captain I need my senses significantly dulled. Jason spots me and invites me to join him and his new
He introduces me to Melissa. She’s a pretty young thing from San Francisco with dark wavy hair, a slight frame and an extremely sweet character. She tells me it’s her first time beyond the States and is thusly excited. Jason then proceeds to tell me everything he’s learned about her since their encounter began; 20 minutes ago. I become bored, not of the details of this girls life but of hearing Jason recount the information he himself has only gained moments ago and wield it like a sword of eternal friendship.
Severely bored I turn my mind, and conversation, to the elderly British chap to my right. He is comprehensively drunk and significantly more entertaining that Jason and his eternal monologing.
In a comical turn of events, after I’ve been engaging with this very interesting old man for the better part of an hour, Jason decides he wants in. He abandons his exchange with Melissa to crudely insert himself into the centre on my fascinating conversation with this seasoned old man by performing his spiel on acupuncture.
I can’t handle it a second time and opt out. I choose instead to converse with Melissa about movies we both watched as children.
Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride; natch.
Somewhere while recalling how utterly terrifying the concept of The Nothing (Nothing!) was to us as children Jason decides that he wants back in and rudely/drunkenly interrupts with a quote that is completely out of context.
My cognisance kicks in and I realise I want no more to do with this character. I’m done. Quoting Tom Cruise is where I draw the line. I attempted to accept the man, flaws and all, but I just can’t do it. His self importance is too much and I capitulate. Turns out you don’t need to like everyone.
“I’m out” I instantly declare to whoever is listening then down the remains of my drink.
This prompts Captain America to completely misread my actions, which seems to be his thing, and inexplicably invite me to join him for additional beverages and conversation a little further up the road.
I momentarily think about joining Captain America at the next port of call when, in an act of self preservation, my brain reminds me through a series of vivid flashbacks, what a thoroughly repellent man I find Jason to be.
And I move on.