This is what I’m telling myself, packing my backpack for a two week trip to South Africa that begins tomorrow. I’ve got ample amounts of underwear, my electric razor, a ton of podcasts downloaded on my mp3 player. I feel prepared. I’ve emailed my bank to tell them I’m traveling, and I’ve sent my mother the latest version of my novel just in case the plane crashes. I feel like I’ve got all the bases covered. Still, I remind myself:
Something will go wrong.
Because that’s the nature of traveling. You try to think through all the possible horror scenarios, but there are always things you fail to see. And they will happen, and then you’ll pull at your hair and wonder, “What the hell? Why didn’t I see that coming?” But it’s not your fault. This is just the way things are.
To illustrate, I thought I’d tell a quick story about a trip I made to Cambodia this time last year. I had traveled there with my friend D, and we had planned to go from Siem Reap down to Phnom Penh and then to take a bus into Vietnam. It seemed like a wonderful plan. We had booked all our accommodations and had read up on how to get from place to place. The only thing left to do was to get our visas for Vietnam, and, from what we read on the Internet, that sounded extremely easy.
But oh no, my friends. To our dismay, the Vietnamese embassy closed for Chinese New Year, leaving us stranded in Phnom Penh, which has to be one of the most boring cities on the face of the earth. For some reason, neither of us ever thought that this could possibly happen. We never went, “Hmm, maybe the Vietnamese celebrate Chinese New Year too.” Never crossed our minds. And as a result, we got stuck in awful Phnom Penh, getting drunk out of boredom and spending way too much time in ridiculous talk bars playing Connect Four with women that possibly were prostitutes.
The real kicker, though, came on one of those drunken nights. D and I had gotten smashed at one of the talk bars, a place called “Angry Birds,” named after the mobile game. I’d had many drinks and had lost many, many games of Connect Four. D and I were in different hotels, and so we bid each other good night, and then I started walking home. Soon later, walking down a dark and empty Cambodian street, I would have my penis grabbed.
I don’t even know how to describe the culprit, either. I would say it appeared to be a drag queen or a tranny without a wig on. In other words, it was a Cambodian guy in heavy makeup and a dress, but with a short buzz cut like Lebron James. At least that’s how I remember it. He was kind of heavy-set, too, which I found odd. Say what you want about transgendered people, but they’re usually in good shape. I give them credit for that. They’re a very physically fit demographic. Anyways, the person quickly approached me and started asking me if I wanted a massage.
I said ‘no,’ but the person was determined. She reached out and grabbed my penis, hard, squeezed it and twisted. I winced in pain. I mean it really, really hurt. I took my hands and tried to bat away the death grip that this person had on my junk, and a few seconds later, she thankfully let go. Then she sort of giggled and ran off. At first I felt relieved, pleased that she had stopped crushing my Johnson. But then I reached into my pocket, and that’s when I realized what had happened.
My phone was gone. The fat tranny had pickpocketed me. She’d molested me as a diversion tactic and stolen my phone.
I ran down the street yelling for her to stop and come back but it somehow didn’t work. Maybe the only English word she knew was ‘massage.’ Anyways, the next morning I was still stuck in Phnom Penh, only now I didn’t have a phone anymore and my testicles were sore.
So that’s it. My fun little anecdote about Cambodia. The point is, one can try to anticipate the things that might go wrong on a trip, but one can’t foresee everything. Really, who knows what’s going to happen to me in South Africa? Maybe I’ll have another phone stolen, or I’ll get eaten by a lion on safari.
As long as it results in a somewhat entertaining story, I guess it’s not all that bad.