The ride had been arranged by the woman whose house I would be staying. A few days earlier she had been giving me instructions on how to direct a cab driver to her house (it did not have an address) when a friend overheard her, and offered to give me a ride. The friend, Rody, was going up surfing near the city the day I was arriving. He offered to pick me up for an amount less than cab was going to cost and this would eliminate the need for me to direct a cabbie to a destination 40 miles away without an address, and in a foreign tongue.
"Perfecto," I thought to myself.
I had spoken with Rody briefly the day before to confirm the ride. Upon arrival I was to call his cellphone. My first attempt went directly to voicemail.
"Hola, no puedo...Rody...Ciao."
Although my Spanish skills could be considered conversational, I did not know the intricacies of how to leave a message saying, "It's Mark, I just landed at the airport, come on by and pick me up." (Actually, now that I think about it, I do know how to say that, but was not at the comfort level of having my sub-par Spanish on tape. It's one thing to say something once, and quite another when you know the person will have the ability to play it back.)
So there I stood outside the airport with no way to get in touch with my ride. Ten minutes turned to twenty, which turned to an hour.
Just as I was about to give up hope and take an offer from one of the ten cabbies who had been hovering around, watching my deteriorating confidence that ride I had told them was coming would actually show-up, a green, mid-90's Chevy mini-van- the kind I used to get rides to grade school basketball games- pulled up to the curb.
Using the hand crank, the driver rolled down the window.
"You Mark? Sorry man, my phone died."
Allow me to attempt to deliver a visual description of Rody- the first Puerto Rican actually living in Puerto Rico I had met, the Ambassador of the Bolinquen nation, sent to fetch me from the airport.
In his mid-thirties, Rody stood about 5'10, and was just slightly overweight He was overweight in a "I'm in my mid thirties" type of way (not that everyone in their mid-thirties is overweight) or "I really like pizza" way- nothing a few weeks of better eating and exercise would not fix. His hair was shaggy and uncombed- some of it hanging down over his eyes. He had on his face what I would guess to be a three to four day growth and looked like he had just rolled out of bed (sorry to wake you up, bud.) His clothing consisted of a pair of Billabong shorts, a tank top, and a pair of sandals. Actually, he pretty much looked like plenty of guys I see walking around Mission Beach on any given weekday afternoon (hey, sometimes I go in late!)
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he really struck me as more SoCal "surfer bra" than Puerto Rican. He spoke with a heavy accent, but his English was pretty good; although, not in the "Shakespearean" sense of the word. By that I mean, I had absolutely no problem understanding him, but his tenth grade English teacher may have been Spicoli.
"No problem," I said- throwing my board and bag in the back, I hopped into the passenger seat. I attempted to strike up a conversation with my Puerto Rican chauffeur, and lucky for me, Rody was more than willing to chat. In fact, Rody loved to talk. All I had to do was name the conversation and he would take it from there. We talked about a bunch of stuff. Everything from politics, to the economy, to the war in Iraq, to the local breaks we would pass on the way to Rincon. Our forty minute ride was truly a pleasure, and I learned a great deal during the trip.
Now, I'm sure/hoping some of you are saying "I wish I was there." Well, do I have a treat for you! It just so happened that just two months earlier I had invested $130 in a little something I like to call The Flip- a super low end camcorder.
Now, you are probably saying, "You started video taping a guy you just met, in a foreign country, minutes after you had landed?" I could give you a long and drawn explanation, but the answer is "sure did."
"How did you get his permission," you ask? That answer is, "I didn't." There was no time to request permission as he was already deep in soliloquy and I did not want to break up the moment.
Note: To be fair, Rody was a fairly intelligent guy, and I caught him relatively early, and given his morning activities (alluded to in the video) this may not be the most accurate representation of the young Bolinquen. As far as the subject matter, I believe it came up because we were talking about crime in the country and that turned to the topics discussed during the video. I left out all the economic/political stuff because, frankly, I did not think you would find it nearly as entertaining.
So without further ado, ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you Rody, the first true Puerto Rican I ever met....