Totally my fault! But also Chas's!
Remember that shady roommate I talked about here? Well it took few days but he finally got the best of me! Let me explain how I became a terribly clichéd victim of a tourist trap, all thanks to Chas Smith.
After deboarding my insland-hopper and taking a cab to the nearest, cheapest hotel in Bocas del Toro, Panama, I was informed by the clerk that they had no availability due to Carnaval. Slightly dismayed but mostly just thirsty, I made my way to the water refill station, which was currently occupied by a couple of American girls and their bevy of empty jugs.
The ladies kindly ushered me in and even paid the twenty-five cents for my refill, as I didn’t have any coins on me. While waiting for my flask to hydrate, I asked if they knew of any places to stay nearby.
The blonde, who would have been attractive were it not for her very dead front tooth, named a few different spots and pointed a few different directions. Not much help. Then the brunette, who was less attractive but had a wonderful smile, led me outside the building to further explain. Mid-way through her spiel, a local guy on a bicycle rides by. “Anybody need a hostel?”
“Uhhh, I do!”
“He’ll rip you offfff,” she said in a sing-songy tone. “But up to you…”
Not hearing her warning, the man flipped a U-ey and rode up to my feet. “What you looking for bro?”
“You got any singles?”
“Yeah bro, $20 a night.”
I looked to my female friend. “It’s a good deal…” she said with an unconvincing shrug.
Remembering Chas’s sage advice to seek out hardship, and neglecting every parent, travel guide, or intuition I’d ever experienced, I replied: “Uhhh, yeah ok… let’s go check it out.”
Next thing I know we’re standing at the bottom of a big apartment building. The guy hands me a key and says I’m in number six. I lug my board bag up two flights of stairs and find the room, which is actually a two-bedroom apartment, walk in, and try the first door. Locked. The light emanating from the frame tells me there are people inside. I try the next door, which is unlocked, and open it to a double-bunk bedroom with no apparent occupants.
I guess it’s all mine?
The first bit of swindling happens an hour later, after I’ve meticulously laid out all my goodies across the stacked bedspreads. Homeboy, let’s call him Timmy, comes back and walks in the door.
“Bro, what are you doing? Why you got your shit everywhere?”
“You told me it was a single… I assumed that meant I could put my shit anywhere.”
“Maaan are you serious? You think I’m gonna rent you this whole room for $20? Bro it’s a $20 a bed, so unless you wanna cough up $80, you better move alllll that shit over there.”
We went back and forth until I talked him into $30 for an entire bunk, or two beds. He made it seem as if I’d twisted arm, but I knew he was still getting one over on me.
“Oh, and get off that bed. That’s my bed,” he declared.
“You’re staying here?”
“Yeah bro we’re roommates! Hey and there’s only one key so we gotta like… coordinate and shit.”
At this point, I was 99% sure the situation was destined to end badly. Everything from the salesman pitch, the backpedalling, the “best friend” act, and now the fact that he was going to be living in the same room as my passport, computer, money and surfboards all spelled disaster. But I felt a certain comfort in the fact that I was aware of it all. Like somehow because I knew the situation I’d put myself in, it wouldn’t happen to me or if it did, it wouldn’t hurt as much as being robbed blindly.
Gotta let the bad times roll!
Stayed tuned for part 2 and maybe 3 of this scintillating tale founded in utter stupidity.