Sunday, December 23, 2007

The "Lifeguard"

People are interesting. Every time you meet a new person, you have absolutely no idea about them and you are left with two choices, either dig in to know more or ignore. Many a times you may want to ignore people at the very first encounter, but sometimes you just cannot, because they don't ignore you either. Here is one such encounter which happened at one of the Pie de la Cuesta beaches in Acapulco.

In the torrid noonday sun we walked in Pie de la Cuesta musing about which beach side restaurant to settle down. We saw one crowded by Gringos which was, obviously, not our choice, we chose the one next to that. It was an empty restaurant and the menu looked perfect for backpackers like us and the hostess offered us the table of our choice. The chairs and tables were made of wood, painted blue and green alternating stripes. Though they looked nice, it wasn't all that comfortable for the a relaxed beach side evening, we still opted for it. The beach was rough, roaring and churning up the gigantic waves, but the sight of the "Lifeguard" made us decide to get into beach.

As we were comforting ourselves in the shade and planning to order something for munching, we were disturbed by a low frequency, manly voice. A blond old man as skinny as a skeleton with sunken skin, wearing a faint smile on the face with prominent lines of old age, dressed only with a loose red shorts was welcoming us. "Bienvenidos!!!", he said, "Hablar Ingles?".
As I nodded my head indicating yes, he continued with his slow English, "Welcome to Pie de le Cuesta beaches. I'm Fernando, the life guard. These beaches are very open and rough, but if you know how to swim it's not so dangerous. I'll be watching you, don't get scared to enter beaches, don't go too much off the shore. I'm here to help you , if you need anything you can call me. I'm collecting some money, it would be great if you can..., no obligations, give me if you feel like. I shall be giving a show on how to enter the beach, you can watch us and shoot photos or videos if you want."
I paid 10, he was not satisfied. He moved his pale, skinny hand towards others and they paid 10 each.
He said, "Thank you very much, enjoy your time here, I'll be around. Call me if you need my help."

Our stomachs were crying out of hunger but we decided against eating something heavy, we ordered corn chips with avocados topped with grated cheese. The food was devoured in no time and we were off to satiate our water lust. The sea was, as stated earlier, rough. Very rough indeed. The fierce waves were twice as high as me and they roared when they hit the beach. I saw the life guard entering the beach with some weird gestures, pretty much similar to Surya Namaskara, one of the yoga gestures. I entered the beach, it was cold, I hesitated to go further but with a little self-pushing I went ahead, clearing the obstacles of the tall waves, I was swimming in the abyss. I saw the lifeguard swimming there and he shouted "Everything OK?" and shouted back that I was fine, showing him a upped thumb.

Once I was ashore relaxing, he came to me and asked "Do you smoke?"
"Not really" I responded.
"I've can get some nice marijuana and cocaine, I'm going to get them for me, if you want some, I can get it. It's original Acapulco stuff, marijuana costs 250 pesos a bag and cocaine costs 300 pesos a gram. Do you need some?", he asked. I was shocked at his audacity in approaching us with such awful proposition.
"No even if I were to smoke, I've got swimming marathon tomorrow and I wouldn't", I said.
"Don't worry, I don't think they'll have any drug test and it may help you to win", he shot back.
"No! I won't" I replied.
"You don't have to smoke it today then, have it and smoke it after your marathon", he suggested.
"I'm flying back to Monterrey and I'll be caught, no need", rejected I.
"But it's good Acapulco stuff", he tried.
"No, gracias" I told and tried to end the conversation.

I started contemplating how on earth could he be a life guard with all this. How could he approach strangers with such deals? A lean old man, the age at which he is supposed to be having a peaceful, spiritual life, he was doing ugly deals.

I met him later when I was photographing and he came to me and told me about him (in Spanish). "I'm from Mexico city and life over there is very mechanical and tensed up. That's the reason I came here to Acapulco, I'm leading a very 'spiritual' (I was thinking Yeah!!! Right!!!) life here, I feel I'm close to God. I'm very poor and it would be great if you can give me some money." I told him that I haven't got much money and didn't give any. Probably had he not made the drug proposition I might have gave him something, but now no. If he deals drugs so boldly, I reasoned, his plight should not be all that bad. He then said "OK no problem, have a nice time and left" and bid farewell to him.
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