by Gary Torres
I am on my way to Papua New Guinea (PNG), or at least that is what my ticket stub says. I had my doubts as to whether or not I would ever make it through the security checks.
Besides, it just isn’t one of my regular stops that I make.
I have traveled back and forth between Farmington and Monticello so many times that I am now a regular and people that I see so often have extended “local” privileges to me.
At the Maverik I know how to fix the yogurt machine, at the Sonic I know which ordering stall to avoid because it is broken, and last time the kid said, “Here’s your cherry-coke (no Pepsi available) Mr. Torres with lots of crushed ice just the way you like it.”
I am going down to Papua NG to give some lectures; yes, some people actually think that I know something. Since I am a long way from home and they don’t know me and can’t check with you or my too kind and loving wife, my credentials must seem more impressive when viewed from afar.
So I flew from Farmington to Denver, then to LAX, and I am waiting for my flight to Sydney, Australia. It is a 14-hour flight from LA to Sydney, and I have prepared for some time to be able to sit still for 14 hours.
This will not be easy, and my too kind and loving wife has given me chemicals (legal ones) that should make me sleep like a baby (that is. drool all over my shirt for at least eight hours of the trip). After that I am on my own.
It bothers me to think that as I arrive in Sydney, I lost an entire day. I don’t know where it went; I left on Saturday and arrived on Monday.
Now I have been known to want to skip church before, but I had never realized that I could skip an entire Sunday. Where did it go? I don’t really know and I won’t get it back unless I come back to LA.
I always knew weird things happen in LA, but for an entire day to vanish is more than my Einstein brain can grasp.
I am going to Papua, and so I have done some reading up on the country of six million people. Apparently, in 1905 a missionary found a religious site with 10,000 shrunken heads. And, if you believe Wikipedia, as late as 1980s cannibalism, although not common, was not unheard of.
So I will take all dinner invites very cautiously, as I am sure a nice plump corn-fed American newspaper reporter might look good with an apple in my mouth on the holiday buffet.
I am quite nervous about taking a sleeping pill. First, I don’t regularly sleep with strangers and as I look about, there are some strange-looking people on the plane. I am not sure that I trust them enough to be in a chemically-induced coma.
Sure, I have often contemplated taking a pill like that before church, just to take the edge off a little, but what’s the worst that is going to happen there?
I fall asleep during the sermon (been there), my too kind and loving wife whacks me repeatedly across the head trying to wake me (done that), or my home teachers have to carry me out to my car (got a photo on Facebook to prove it).
As I pop my pill, I am comforted because there are two very attractive, young twin Asian women sitting next to me, and I think that I am safe and won’t mind sleeping with them. They tell me their names, but I just call them Jin and Jen because I can’t pronounce their real names.
Of course, from Jin and Jen’s perspective, they are sitting next to a creepy old American that is popping a pill and mumbling and drooling about living in a cave with his too kind and loving wife.
I am less comforted when I wake up and the twins have been replaced with a dreamy-eyed big fella with a gold tooth. He is letting me rest my head on his hairy shoulder and is wearing an alligator-tooth necklace. Crocodile-Dundee with a gold tooth.
So far, I am only 19 hours into my trip, and I have ingested chemicals, slept with two Asian twins, woke up with Mr. Gold-Tooth Dundee, can’t account for 24 hours, and was frisked, patted down, and squeezed at the airport more times than a fresh baguette in France.
I hope that I don’t have a new, but tasteful, tattoo of Jin and Jen in a cute little heart on my buttocks or worse, a not-so-tasteful Mike Tyson tattoo on my face when I finally get to see myself in a mirror.
I hope the return trip isn’t as troubling.