So, there I am.
Sitting in a Burger King at the Guadalajara airport with the not unreasonable expectation that I would enjoy a quiet meal.
(Yeah. Yeah. I know. Quiet Meal. Airport. Mexico. Not a great expectation.)
Our Lady of the Malt Vinegar had fallen into a petulant (but silent) mood. But, just like a well-directed version of Our Town, the next cast member entered just as the smiling employee left the stage.
With a polite "¿Con permiso?," he sat down across from me in my booth. I thought it a bit odd. There were plenty of empty booths and tables. But I am never above meeting someone new.
He was one of those middle people. Middle age. Struggling middle class. Medium height. That was my five second appraisal.
I was fully prepared for the "I'm stranded in the airport" story. That is what all of the elements looked like to me. And it was starting to look like a very boring play. I was really hoping for something original.
Sometimes our wishes come true in spades -- and hearts.
We went through the usual pleasantries . Nice day. Beautiful airport. Mediocre Burger King food. All in Spanish. I was rather proud of myself.
While we were talking, at least three other people in the airport greeted him -- as if he were a fixture.
When he reached for a folder sitting next to him, I thought I knew why they knew him. I anticipated the next item to appear on the table would be a copy of The Watchtower.
I was wrong. It was a California title for a late model pickup. He looked up at me expectantly. I looked back -- confused.
He said he was trying to get the truck registered in Mexico, but he had no luck for the last six months.
I had no idea where his tale was headed, but I could see the peso notes stacking in his eyes as he readied the next round of Bluff the Gringo. So, I cut the dance short by choosing not to be able to understand even the most rudimentary Spanish words. A technique I find useful with Mexican policemen and military checkpoints. Polite, but ignorant.
He must have decided I was too slow to pick up on the intricacies of whatever financial transaction he had in mind. Away went the folder.
He then asked me a question (that I honestly did not understand) while repeatedly brushing his collar as if he were a third base coach. He lost me on the entire exchange.
But I saw his hand move under the table. In the upturned palm of his right hand was a small cellophane wad enclosing some form of white powder.
I looked up at him, started laughing loudly, and said: "You've got to be kidding." Both the hand and Señor Middle disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
I may be an advocate for the legalization of drugs, but I am not a user. Never have been. I do enough stupid things in life without getting involved with that silliness.
In 2001 I visited Vietnam. While walking through the market in Da Nang, what looked like Marshal Ky's emaciated doppelganger hobbled up to me -- and hissed: "Want some marijuana?" The last word pronounced as if it had between eight and ten syllables.
Some things have the distinct odor of police involvement. And I had no desire to be part of either of those two events.
But the curtain was not yet ready to come down on this Thornton Wilderish layover.
There was still one act to unfold.