Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Very Moving Experience

I knew our tour guide was a sadist when he told us that Breakfast was at 6:30 and that we’d be leaving the boat at 7. Oh, sure, he gave us some BS story about the heat and beating the crowds, but I saw him for what he really was.

I tried to reason with him that we were on vacation, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I tried to bribe him, but he’s the only guy in Egypt not susceptible to being bribed. I would have tried physically threatening him, but let’s face it, I’m a total wuss who sometimes takes the stairs for exercise, and he’s a strapping young man with a physical job.

So I had to get up at 6:30 to go to the Valley of the Kings, resting place of the ancient pharaohs, and focal point of all the sun’s rays starting from about 7 in the morning. Don’t be confused by the name, though. If it goes all uphill, it’s not really a valley, right?

We entered three tombs, with the option to buy tickets to enter two more: King Tut and Akhenaton the Sixth. At the guide’s advice, we skipped King Tut, and were the only people in the group to do so. Those who chose to go down told us we didn’t miss anything. Apparently Carter was really thorough when he looted it.

As for the others; well, it’s pretty incredible to see paintings that are thousands of years old yet still have phenomenal color. I didn’t quite understand why the ancient pharaohs had themselves interred in chambers that reeked of BO and had a faint smell of pee in them, but I guess tastes change.

After that we went to the valley of the queens. I had though we were gonna see an Elton John concert or something, but no such luck. It was hot there, too, and the only tomb we went into was nothing so special. It stank too, though, which counts for something.

Finally we ended up at the highlight of the day’s tour: the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. This place was phenomenal, not least of which because it’s built in a giant, open-air microwave that gets so hot your hair will light on fire.

Okay, not really, but it’s stinking hot. Wifey pooped out pretty quickly and went to go lounge at the café, leaving me to snap pictures of this and that.

Hatshepsut was sure to build her temple near lots of souvenier stands

You have to be careful when you take pictures in Egypt, because the guards will try to jump into the shot and then demand that you give them a tip for being in your picture. To counter this, I started distracting the guards by lining up pictures of strangers, and when the guard hurried into the picture I’d say “pay the man, honey” and then walk off.

Good times.

One fateful event happened at the outdoor café: Chester and Susan ordered a couple of glasses of the revolting red juice with ice in it. Susan was very leery of drinking the ice, so Chester had a double portion. He would later regret this.

Finally it was back on the boat to cast off and head downriver. Yay, the boat actually moves!

That was fun for about an hour. But once you’ve seen miles and miles of desert pass you by, it all starts to look kind of the same. I resorted to buying a deck of ill-cut cards just to be able to amuse myself. This was how I discovered that my wife cheats at strip poker.

You can’t refuse to take off your panties just because you’re mad about the hand you were dealt. Rules are what separate us from the animals, who walk around naked all the time anyways.

At lunchtime, I discovered the long finger of Ramses the 6th reaching out to lay his horrible curse upon me. That’s right, I had the runs. I chugged some Immodium and after a couple of hours I was right back into the swing of things.

In the afternoon we went through a set of locks, which I can say was one of the most bizarre experiences of my entire life. As you approach the locks, a fleet of rowboats descends upon your ship and ties off on the side. Below, in the rowboats, the men start yelling at you: “hello! Excuse me!”

Hello! Please buy my crap!

If you make eye contact, speak to them, or even fart, they begin hurling items at you for you to buy. Cheap scarves, gowns, crappy headdresses, that sort of thing. The amazing thing is the arms on these guys: they’re in a bobbing rowboat, tied off to the side of your ship, and they can chuck a rolled-up T-Shirt to the top of a 3-story ship and hit you in the chest.

I don’t know how they feel about dogfighting, but most of these guys have better arms than a good 50% of NFL quarterbacks.

That evening was “Egyptian Night” in the dining room. You know what I discovered? Egyptian food kind of sucks. I can usually eat almost anything, and I was almost SOL. Poor Wifey had to scrape together some bread, as the chicken was beyond the pale for her.

After dinner we were scheduled for “an exciting evening of competition” between the various tour groups in the entertainment room, complete with everybody wearing Egyptian costumes. I couldn’t wait to blow it off and spend the evening up topside relaxing, but Wifey really wanted to go, so she dragged me to it.

I agreed because I was still hoping to get those panties off of her, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do. We didn’t wear costumes, but I improvised by putting a pillowcase over my head like a turban.

Then, just as it got started, she began to feel bad. Excusing herself, she told me to stay through the whole thing while she went and lay down, because she wanted to know exactly what happened. Like a dutiful husband, I did exactly that.

Here’s the best thing about having an “exciting competition” on a cruise ship when the median age is a good 20 years older than you: if it’s a feat of strength or dexterity, you have the advantage.

So it was that I found myself competing in the potato race. They took a potato that was tied onto the end of a rope and put it around your waist. Then they put another potato between your feet. The object was to knock the second potato across the floor (about 15 feet) by hitting it with the potato on the rope, without using anything else to move it.

I was competing against a guy who was about 70 and had drunk 24 beers that day and a weaselly little 50-year-old who looked like the victim from the Charles Atlas sand-kicking cartoons. No problem for a robust man like myself.

As they explained the rules, I asked one simple question: “Can I drop my pants? It’d be a lot faster for me to knock it across the floor that way.” The answer, predictably, was no.

Then they blew the whistle and we started. The drunken 70-year-old quickly gave up, leaving it down to me and Mr. Weasel. Being the engineering stud, I quickly figured out that the game is not what it seems, and there’s a trick to it. Because I am a good blog host, I will share it with you in case you are ever in a rude-looking potato-propelling contest and you, too, are denied the opportunity to drop your pants and swing for the fences.

See, you can’t keep the potato between your feet; you have step forward and crouch down and put it beneath your ass. Then, when you gyrate, the potato hanging from your body will swing low enough to hit the potato on the ground. Once I’d mastered this, I managed to quickly complete the task, all the while praying that my Immodium didn’t give out and leave me with a spattered potato.

Here's what I prayed Immodium would do for me

Fortunately it held, and I beat Mr. Weasel by a good ten feet. Dork! Who’s laughing now? And my prize? A free glass of something that tasted like peach juice.

Just for the record, it sucked, and was not at all worth air-humping my way across the stage in front of the entire boat. But I did get the pleasure of yelling “LOSER!” every time I saw the other two guys and emasculating them in front of their women. Of course, my wife was upstairs, possibly enjoying herself with Ricardo the Pool Boy, which takes some of the thrill of victory out of the contest.

When I returned to my room, I found a simple, loving note from Wifey:

“I always loved you. Please have me cremated and returned to the United States for burial. I do not want to be buried at sea. Tell the children to make me proud. Your loving wife.”

She was laying in the fetal position on the bed, trying not to die. I was concerned, and she told me that Ramses had stricken her as well, but apparently more seriously than me. I asked her if she’d taken Immodium.

“You’re not supposed to take it until 2 hours after you’ve eaten, so I have to wait.” she told me.

I scoffed at this notion. “That’s playground bullshit, like you can’t get pregnant if you don’t orgasm. Where did you hear that?”

“It’s on the bottle,” she told me. “I can read, you know.”

The cold worms of dread began to gnaw at my belly, because I had taken mine with lunch. Are my innards going to plug up now? Are my intestines converting to jelly? Will it not work, and end up with me having explosive diarrhea all over some Egyptian antiquity, leading to my arrest and torture in some godforsaken Egyptian jail, just like the guy in Midnight Express?

Only time would tell.

In the interim, though, one thing was clear: there would be no sex tonight, because intestinal distress is such a turn-off.

Tomorrow: will we be well enough to accompany the Marquis de Sade to another Egyptian antiquity? Will Plebian survive the runs? Will the boat move a second time?

Find out!

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