When ‘Bums on Seats’ Is More Than a Theatre TermMarch 21, 2010
The behaviour of some visitors to Bali continues to stagger and amaze. Sometimes youthful (and not so youthful) high jinks cross over into the territory of disrespect, sometimes they are merely thoughtless or annoying. But sometimes such events commence as an episode of bad taste and end as a wonderful example of karma at work in its purest form, providing learning experiences for the protagonist, and vast amusement to spectators.
And so it was that I was drawn to visit Kuta. It was one of those rare occasions where the morbid fascination of watching the denizens of this enclave perform their arcane rituals outweighed my usual reticence to venture into this netherworld. It was mid-afternoon and hot, the cloudless day and furnace-like lanes combining to suck the moisture out of the bodies of all who, like me, were stupid enough to be out on the streets. Needless to say, I sought refuge in one of the many bars catering to the needs of the hot and thirsty.
Inside, where it was marginally cooler, grateful patrons were partaking of icy-cold refreshments. At the next table were a group of young men, whose preferred tipple was, not surprisingly, Bintang. Judging by their loud, slurred voices, the obscenities, the good natured arguments that often spilled over into macho challenges and the inability of most of them to navigate to the toilet without falling over, they had been there for quite some time. The peculiar alchemy of alcohol, heat and reduced inhibitions while in holiday mode had taken its toll – as it is wont to do on those recently out of adolescence, but not yet into full adulthood. They kept on about their bikes parked outside, referring to them as ‘toys’ and ‘scooters’ which were not worthy of the name motorbike – at least compared to the ‘real’ machines they apparently rode at home. Then, with unerring accuracy, the alpha male in the group, whose name was apparently “Wazza” or something similar, began to zero in on the group’s underdog, “Willsy”, a brash type who seemed to be taking a lot of flak from his contemporaries and therefore drunkenly determined to both prove his worth and improve his status. Talk about a soft target …
Wazza: ( Baiting the hook) “Hey Willsy, bet you haven’t got the stones to do a streak in the bar”
Willsy: (Blinking) “Wot, here?”
Wazza: “Nah mate, in Sinny! Yeah, here ya dill! Go on – it’s Bali mate!”
Willsy: “I dunno …”
Wazza: “Knew it. You’re gutless. $20 says ya won’t do it”
So Willsy thinks about it, calculates the potential loss of prestige in front of his peer group, and emboldened by one more cold Bintang, decides to do it. To a slow handclap from his friends, he peels off his singlet, drops his boardies and is about to take off. Wazza looks scornful: “Wot? That’s not a streak – you’ve got ya jocks on! Forget it – just gimme the $20”. Willsy caves in, drops the last vestiges of his modesty, and again starts his run around the bar to mixed reactions from the patrons, some gleeful, some mildly shocked, most watching with amused curiosity. The bar staff are less than amused. Before he has stumbled five paces, Wazza yells “Wait!” A relieved Willsy returns, thinking he has been spared.
Wazza: (setting the hook) “Tell ya what, mate. Anybody can do a streak in a bar. I’ve got $50 that says you won’t do a streak on ya bike”
Willsy: “Wha …”
Wazza: “On ya bike. Just up to the next corner, turn around, come back. $50.”
So poor foolish Willsy, outmanoeuvred yet again, mumbles “Yer on” and runs outside, followed by most of the bar. If he had had less contempt for step-through motorbikes and mounted in the approved girly fashion, he would have sensed the danger while mounting. But no, he had to fling his leg over, macho-style, and drop straight down on the seat. Did I mention it was hot? And that bike seats are black, are ideal for absorbing heat, and get close to 90 degrees Celsius after hours in the sun? Hot enough to fry eggs, and a goodly part of a breakfast sausage actually, which is pretty much what happened to Willsy. I have never seen anyone get off a bike so fast. His yelling was loud, but nowhere loud enough to drown out the screams of hilarity from his ‘friends’, and in fact, most of the street. The bar staff, obviously having reconsidered their disapproval, were now in tears from sheer glee. I left, chuckling, while his mates helped the hapless Willsy to the bathroom to pour cold water on his burnt gluteals and other accoutrements.
Wonderful thing, karma. It comes in many guises, and perhaps the sweetest of all is when a transgression carries the seeds of its own punishment. Bet you’ve learned something, Willsy. Bet you didn’t get your $50 either.