As I stair out the window of Air Canada flight AC 2468 a sudden hard smack on the arm causes me to spill tomato juice all over my already ketchup stained pants. A deep breath followed by a long sigh helps me to ignore the sudden onset of an impulse to strike back. An impulse developed in response to growing up with a younger brother. A history involving countless scrapes, bruises, stitches and tears. "Hey," my brother says, "look at Oma," our 86 year old grandmother is standing in the lavatory line up with a pack of "Virginia Slims" in one hand and a lighter in the other. "Hmm, I wonder what she's up to", I reply, as if it weren't blatantly obvious. The tomato juice has now secured its place in history deep within the denim fabric of my pants. Its been nearly 8 hours since our dear oma's last cigarette, 7 hours and 45 minutes longer than usual and she's about had enough. My brother and I exchange a look that could only suggest one emotion: curiosity. I glance back out the window and think to myself, "this is going to be a long 7 days".
Our mother "The Major" thought it would be nice if the 2 oldest of her four boys were to spend a week in Cancun at an all inclusive with their dear sweet oma. Not my type of adventure but I love my oma to pieces and I wasn't about to get her on a overnight snowshoeing trip, so I settled for some quality time in Margaritaville. My brother, my oma and I in Cancun, Mexico. Sounds relaxing enough...
It didn't take long for my overly competitive 6 foot 5, 220 pound younger brother to secure the title "king of the pong". I observed him with amusement as he slammed ball after ball into his opponents half of the table, where it would than bounce about a mile off into any which direction. Mojito in one hand, paddle in the other, he made a slightly less than humble spectacle with the celebration of each point. After all, it was important that his opponents knew who the "king" was. His competition: a line up of boys and girls ranging in age from 7 to 14 years. Parents stood by in shock as this monster of a man sent their children off chasing ping pong balls all over the quiet familly resort, one after the other, no shame. What childhood trauma haunts these children as a result of that days exhibition, I have no idea. But I'll bet to date, if you were to ask them who the "king" is, not one of them would reply, Elvis.
After about 4 days of playing dominos with oma and destroying the competition at the ping pong table my brother and I found our selves sharing a cuban cigar and a bullshit on the beach as the sun went to rest for the night. It didn't take long for our young entourage to discover our area of refuge. They began a series of cart-wheels, back-flips and twists to entice us into entertaining them again. Recognizing this as my cue I got to my feet, handed off my glass of vino and took the stage for a back-flip, a move that previously posed no problem. Perhaps the blood hadn't quite rushed back into my head, or maybe I had one too many at dinner, whatever the reason, the next stunt would cause this trip to become the most expensive grandmother-grandsons vacation on record. It would also force us to seriously question our decision not to get travelers insurance.
It took about 2 seconds for this aerobatic stunt to put me face first in the sand/rock. As I rose to my feet the thing that hurt the most was my ego, never mind the fact that I had just turned the bridge of my nose into a door that could hinge open to my sinus cavity. "Hey bro, am I bleeding?" There was no need for an answer, his face said it all.
It didn't take long for my brother to return from our room with our wallets which would soon be scraped clean. Now for the very long journey to get my face put back together. We made our way to hospital number one, not in a ambulance but in a taxi (their faster) we were assured, no need for safety at this point. The doctor gave me a once over than told me in very broken english that he couldn't help me, I needed plastic surgery. Back to the taxi, now with a neck brace and gauze to hold my beak in place instead of the paper towel I was previously using.
When we arrived at the next hospital we were greeted by a small mexican lady who didn't speak a lick of english. Next thing I know I was tossed onto a mobile hospital bed and wheeled into a room where I was instructed with hand gestures to remove all my clothes. So here I am standing in a mexican hospital holding my nose on my face, naked to the world. It was at this moment that things really began to sink in. Next, I was handed a hospital gown that I desperately used to try and cover as much of my 6 foot 2, 220 pound naked body as possible. An attempt that proved to be all in vain. The gown fit like a child's medium t-shirt, without so much as a stitch to hold the back shut. So there I stood, bloody gauze covering my busted face and a child's medium t-shirt covering my upper torso. While the rest of me just hung out for all to see. I would remain in this fashionable attire for the next 24 hours. However, this was no time for humiliation, instead we had to find a way to come up with $22 000 US, or else I was told they couldn't operate. I had 8 hours before the tissue in my nose would die, after which according to the doctor it would just fall off. Wonderful news.
My brother somehow managed to get on the phone, ring oma at 2:00 am, who has no idea what is going on, and max her credit card out at 14 g's. Still 8 short. Well, we only had 3000 between the two of us which was quickly picked clean. So now for the dreaded call to the "The Major". To say our mother is protective would be a gross understatement, she used to follow us around on halloween in the mini-van until we were 17 and she probably still would if she didn't have two younger boys to mother in our place. Needless to say, we knew she would absolutely freak out upon hearing of our predicament. My father would have said "What, you need 5 grand, well than you better get a job". My brother tried to break it to her as softly as he could and being the amazing mom that she is, without hesitation picked up the rest of the tab.
Time for surgery. Of which there is not too much I can remember, as I was put under for the whole process. I do remember being rolled, again butt-naked, onto a rather chilly stainless steel cross and strapped down. Next a small man came into my vision, only long enough for me to make note of the annoyed expression he was wearing. He covered my face with a mask, muttered something about a burrito and I was out.
As the wheels touched back down in Canada, it marked the end of an adventure that I am not in a hurry to ever relive. I was happier than I think I've ever been to be home. I now have quite a hefty debt, but I still have my sniffer. A thousands thanks to my brother, oma, and mother as well the team of mexican doctors who helped put Humpty Dumpty back together again.