Thursday, November 27, 2014

¿Quién es más macho?

We’re in Cancún, on our annual winter break. We keep coming back to the same resort, which plays a lot of the same games year-to-year at the welcome party. I usually manage to volunteer for one thing or another because I enjoy getting up on the stage and acting silly in front of a lot of people. This year I got picked for a game that involves drinking tequila and behaving in other ways like a stereotypical Mexican. Oops. As many of my readers know, I don’t drink. I didn’t know what game we’d be playing when I volunteered, but I figured it out in time discreetly to tell the guy who seated me onstage that I’d like him to bring me a glass of water when he brought everybody else tequila. And I promised to put on a good show.

When the next guy came onstage, I shook his hand. Any time men gather in Belarus they all shake each other’s hands. It would probably happen in Texas, too. But this group of North American tourists didn’t take to that custom, and I had a hard time getting Contestant #2 to notice my hand held out to him. He didn’t extend the courtesy to Contestant #3 and the handshaking stalled. By Belarusian tradition, each newly-arriving man should have shaken the hands of each of the men already present. In this group of Americans, it was every man for himself.

Last time I played this game I lost, in part because the audience picks their favorite and most of them realized that I wasn’t drinking. If they hadn’t seen me negotiating with the staff about my beverage, they certainly noticed that my drink didn’t seem strong to me. This time, when we got to the drinking part of the show, I acted cautious and afraid about drinking (while I sniffed to make sure I really had water) and then I pretended to struggle with swallowing my drink. I also had to ride an imaginary horse, say a few things in Spanish, yodel and dance around a hat. All the while, I remembered to pay attention to the audience.

I still had to encourage the audience when it came to voting by applause. The other contestants just stood there and took however much applause they got. I milked the crowd with gestures of come-on, victory and conspiracy. They may not have wanted to vote for me, but they had to because they couldn’t ignore my encouragement. Since I was the only one asking for their approval, I got plenty. Since that evening, everybody greets me, frequently by my stage name. I am Juanito, the most macho man in Cancún.