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Missing Panama All Along

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Written by Matt   
Saturday, 06 December 2008 07:31
Panama CellLiving in Panama for prolonged periods of time, sovaldi sale certain nuances and facets of life have a way of seamlessly melting into one big mass: a mass so big that you cannot clearly detect it anymore. It's the same with any destination I suppose, shop where crossing the limits from vacationer to local brings with it new standards of normalcy. It is interesting therefore, medical counterintuitive even, that oftentimes the best way to recalibrate my senses, to re-sharpen my observations about Panama is not to dig deep into the culture or dive further into it's past, but to take a giant step outside its borders and examine Panama from afar, as the distant land I once knew it.  I was boarding a train into Manhattan to visit my friend Adam who lives in a neighborhood called Murray Hill. Spending time in the big apple is, for me, not unlike buying someone a really expensive Hanukah present: I don't particularly enjoy doing it, but the recipients consider it obligatory.  I have a glut of college friends that live in NYC who'd undoubtedly raise hell should I not consider visiting them, at least I'd like to think they would. And while the thought of inviting them all individually to a neutral location, something like New Brunswick, has crossed my mind, I always seem to give in and make the commute.

I have trouble staying in New York City for more than several days at a time as it is, to me, like its own country, one founded on the fast-paced cultures and beliefs of many different moons-moons which bother me like a bad rash. Visiting my friend Adam is perhaps the easiest option for me, seeing as though he's just as content making fun of New Yorkers as I am. Say a damaging word about the cit to everyone else, and you'll get an earful using phrases like "intense diversity" and "variety." Ironically, the very same qualities about New York that tend to drive me into overwhelmed paralysis, stuck in suspended animation amidst the fast cars and forceful people like a fly in a spider web.

"People in New York scare me," I said semi-out-of-nowhere to the man sitting next to me on the train. I don't often say things like this to strangers, but felt the need in this particular moment, to get it off my chest.

I had begun chatting with the man who was either an out of shape lineman or a fit couch potato, when he sat down and commented that the cabin was "butt ass cold." I agreed without thinking twice and our conversation briefly turned to the young girl sitting several seats up and the jiggly qualities of her rear. He was a large twenty-something who's fat spilled over temporarily into my seat and while our personal conversation was kept at a minimum, I played audience to several of his phone conversations: an act akin to looking through someone's photo album in that I felt like I'd known him for years.

"I got a arraignment on da sixth," he said at one point to one end of the phone, "and you can bet yo' ass I'm gonna fight it hard. Dem punk ass bitches don't know what they got comin'."

The arraignment with the punk ass bitches, I discovered on a separate call, was the result of the previous night in which he punched the bouncer at a club directly in the nose with a coffee mug and was soon thereafter beat by a team of six cops, at least that's how he told it. I usually tend to have faith in the American justice system, but according to the us, this would undoubtedly be a hate crime; one which would share space in the bowels of history catalogues with the likes of Rodney King and the discontinuation of Arrested Development on FOX.

On this particular trip, I had decided to take the Amtrak train seeing as though the weekend after Thanksgiving is widely regarded as the worst time of the year to drive. By comparison, the train system running the Northeast Corridor is futuristic when put next to the transportation options in Panama, with comfy spacious seating, clearly denoted routes, and presumably sober conductors who rarely if ever crash into cows. The man next to me got off around Trenton without saying goodbye, a harsh way to leave a friend I thought, but I'd soon forgive him for the entertainment provided. In his place sat a middle-aged woman with lots of bags. Unlike the previous man, this woman was already on the phone when she entered the train.

"I heard some people are getting twelve hundred dollars a night!" she exclaimed. "Can you believe that? Twelve hundred dollars, that's like...that's like ten grand a week!"

Whether or not all Americans exhibit my perverse levels of curiosity I don't know. But in being tossed these small snippets of minutiae into the lives of strangers, my brain flees unconsciously into overdrive trying to learn more. They are like mini trailers for movies I'd never heard of, independent ones perhaps that reel you in close, then in an evil way, determine whether or not you're lucky enough to see the rest of the show.

She went on. "I tell ya, if I could get twelve hundred a night, I'd do it honey. I would, I really would. We could celebrate with a  great bottle of champagne. Hell, for twelve hundred a night we could go to Champagne, France for all I care!"

While I do consider myself an expert eavesdropper, I had major difficulty deciphering what we were talking about. Unlike the man who got beat by the cops, this woman kept a subtle veil of ambiguity around her conversation, and while she spoke plenty loud for the entire car to hear, she failed, perhaps on purpose, to include certain details. I turned to a four year old kid between the seats and noticed an inquisitive gleam in his eye. I know she'll get paid a lot, the facial expression said, but bitch, tell us what for?

The conversation finally reached the point I'd been waiting for when, in an effort to rehash her argument, she decided to sum everything up.

"Only in DC in 2008, could..." she said. She then looked around the car as if surveying for spies. Noticing my perky ears waiting for the punch line though, she decided to cover her mouth and whisper the remainder of the sentence. "Only in DC in 2008, could you smudge a sinking purse deserving" was the best I could make out. "Only in DC in 2008, could you push a blinking purse down the road." (I'm pretty sure it was something involving a purse.)

It was annoying being accused of eavesdropping, not because I wasn't (because I was), but rather because the majority of her life had been on the equivalent of a PA system since she got on. Why this moment, does one decide to be all covert and private? Was the twelve hundred dollars in exchange for drug smuggling? Human trafficking? How about money laundering? Was the twelve hundred compensation for money laundering?

I took personal offense even though the lady and I never spoke a word to one another. In a fit of revenge, I decided I wouldn't be eavesdropping any more on my way to New York: a sort of penalty to the rest of the cell phone talkers in that they'd have one less of an audience to perform for. I sat quietly the remainder of the trip, staring out the window, watching as trees and homes and fields passed in a momentous blur.

A young man in a suit sitting in front of me babbled on about closing big deals and I bypassed it like elevator music. "We've got one day to acquire them," he said. "That's like a thirty mil deal waiting to go through!"

The old me (the me at the beginning of the train ride) might have considered what industry the suit man was in and if, by any chance, his big deal might involve a summertime bonus in Negril. The new me though was downbeat and indifferent. If you're making such big deals, I thought to myself, why don't you use a better mode of transportation? Like a helicopter or a jet. That's what big deal makers travel in.

I considered up and moving to the quiet car all together when it struck as to what I'd been missing about Panama all along. People have cell phones in Panama sure, but they don't talk on them nearly as incessantly as they do in the States. Confined spaces aren't the arenas for voice competitions as to who can speak loudest or longest. Bluetooth earpieces are still relatively new to Panama as are monstrous unlimited minute plans and the arrival of a plague classified as Blackberry. As an added bonus for me in Panama, listening to an annoying phone conversation in Spanish is like passing an exit ramp when you're lost. It's just an extraneous distraction for foreigners that can be ignored at the blink of an eye.

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