The Stingray Incident

Sometimes when you travel things happen that test your patience in unexpected ways. They really rattle your cool and are so maddeningly bizarre and out of your control you have to ask yourself “How did I end up here?” At the time it’s beyond aggravating, it’s out of the realm of anything you expected to experience. They don’t cover this kind of thing in school, you’re being educated and it’s horrible.

In the immediacy after such an event you harbour a curdling loathing for what has befallen you. But as time stretches on from such a thing you often find yourself looking back and laughing fondly at what ever it was that made you damn near genocidal with rage. This is one of those stories.

I’d gone to Sri Lanka to meet my then girlfriend and travel round for a week before we headed to Vietnam. She’d had her passport and bank-card stolen when she’d cleverly got off of a local bus for a cigarette and left her bags unattended. When I arrived we had to go to the British embassy to get her an emergency passport. Then once we had that we had to go to the Vietnamese one to get a new visa processed. Having gotten this all sorted and our holiday back on track she promptly broke up with me because, “It’s just different now.”

I was understandably pissed. So I took myself for a stroll down the beach rather than entertain the idea of chucking her off the hotel balcony too much. I was minding my own business when a local approached me, we started talking and he invited me to his village near by because I was in time to see the day’s catch being brought in. Excellent, I thought, this is the kind of thing I love travelling for and it would be a welcome distraction.

Once at the local fish market he quickly tried to sell me a one of the sting rays his brother had caught (one of which he was hacking to bits with a machete). I politely turned down the offer. He started to pressure me into buying one, I responded with, “What exactly do you expect me to do with a whole sting ray?” to which he retorted. “Take it back to the hotel and have your chef cook it.” Oh yes of course, how foolish of me. I’ll just strap this thing to my back, lug it back to the hotel, flop it on the reception desk and tell them “Sort that out will you.”

This guy was really insistent and was starting to grate on my last nerve. He wasn’t going to take no as an answer. I looked at the watch that wasn’t on my wrist and said I had to go back to the hotel. He started getting a bit hostile then, following me as a I walked back to the road. He was trying to convince me to come back at some point with more money as I’d said I didn’t have enough for the Ray anyway. That’s when the guilt tripping came in, “I’m just a poor fisherman,” he told me, “You must give me small something, I took you to see my village out of the goodness of my heart.” At this point I was just willing to pay to get him off my back, I slipped him a small note and, after not being able to extract more from me, he disappeared into the nearest liquor store. That, I thought, was that.

Later on in the evening I was chilling at the hotel pool with my newest ex before our flight the next morning. I’d had a chance to calm down and the situation with the fisherman had had the desired effect of distracting me, just not as I’d hoped. That’s when the hotel manager came and found me. “There is a man waiting for you by the gate, you must come please.” Surprised when I asked who it turned out to be the fisherman. He’d followed me and had been waiting for me there since I’d got back. “You did not give him money did you? This is a drinking man, he will not go away till you see him. This is bad for business to have him here.” “Why would you give him money? How naive are you” demanded the ex.

Instead of getting into it with her I went to the gates. The guy had gotten himself drunk and worked up, adamant that I’d promised to return to purchase the Stingray from him. I was liar, he questioned my moral character in slurring tones and insisted I went with him now. The hotel manager was telling me this was my fault for talking with him and I had to get him to leave. The ex was telling me how stupid I was for having spoken to him and for giving him drinking money.

And there it was in alignment; the trinity of awful. The local drunk, the disgruntled hotelier and my fickle ex all berating me. I couldn’t help but wonder how I got myself into this situation. I wanted to strap them all into the near by deck chairs, gagged, possibly water boarded. I was desperate to tell them at length exactly why each of them was being a dick head. Instead I just stood their hoping the earth split and plunge us all into a fiery chasm.

Of course I can laugh about it now. This was back in 2016, time and a sense of humour do wonders for taking a bad situation and casting a funny light on it. As for what I learned from the situation, well it’s this. DO NOT go off with the local fisherman directly after a breakup. Tell him where to stick his Stingray and walk away. DO NOT let the local drunk follow you back to your hotel. DO tell your hotel manager it’s his job to get rid of people annoying his paying guests and that he should probably snap to.

DO NOT abscond with a girl you’ve known for a couple of months and think you love, you’re just horny. When travelling DO keep your wallet and passport on you even if you are just popping out for a cigarette (you’d think that would be self explanatory). Most importantly instead of just standing there like a moron taking people’s flak you are entitled, every now and again, to tell them to fuck off. Fuck right off.

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