The story I’m about to describe to you is how I came across the greatest t-shirt known to man. Alright, maybe its just the greatest shirt in my entire wardrobe. Yeah, alright, true. I do only own like 9 shirts, but thats not the point. Now I could have just come across this gem while digging through any old pile of dead yovo clothes(It’s what all of the donated clothes from the US and Europe are called here) at the market and it still would have been pretty awesome. But a signed Derek Jeter ball you bought in a sports memorabilia shop is not nearly as cool as somehow getting Jeter to sign the game winning home run ball you caught with your own little league mitt. Its the story that makes it.
So, the story starts at this little rooftop bar in my village where another volunteer and I were cooling down and relaxing over a few cold beers. We’ll call the other volunteer…Jack. Anyway, Jack gets a phone call from another volunteer saying that she just arrived at So And So’s birthday party and it was going to be “uhhmAAAziiiing!!!” So OMG we just haaad to come.
We had previously decided that it wasn’t worth the time and money to take the long trip out to the other town where the party was taking place. But we were each a couple of beers deep so lets just say our negotiating skills weren’t quite in tip top shape to be arguing against going to a party at this point. So after carefully weighing the pros and cons and making sure we made the most logical and reasonable decision, about 35 seconds later Jack and I were paying our tab and heading out the door to find a cab.
Now this wasn’t like the kind of ‘oh man, I really don’t feel like taking a half hour cab ride to the other side of town to go to some birthday party’ kind of trip. This ‘long trip’ that our previously completely sober and rational minds had decided wasn’t worth it, was about to take us five and a half hours cramped in a bush taxi with 6 other people (thats a total of 8 people in a small beat up sedan), down a grueling, unbelievably rocky and pothole ridden ‘road’. And all of this was coming together just as the horizon was beginning to take on the pinkish hue of the days setting sun.
After what I can honestly say was the worst traveling experience I had ever had up to that point(It was stripped of its title shortly thereafter by the hungover car ride back up that exact same road the next morning), the car finally stops to let everyone out, only to tell us we still had another 25 miles to go and that he wasn’t taking us any further. So after arguing with half a dozen moto drivers to find a decent price, and being convinced to partake in a round of particularly hellish shots of Togolese moonshine, we hop on the back of a couple of motos to head down the rest of this riverbed they claimed to be a road.
Now the back portion of the seat on my moto had been so worn down that I was literally just sitting on metal bars for the last 40 minute stretch of this trip. Needless to say, by the time we arrived I was less than happy, completely sober, and literally felt like my ass had just been through the scene after the baseball game in Dazed and Confused. Going to a party right now was the last thing I wanted to do.
So I’m standing in the middle of the ‘road’ after stepping off of this moto. It’s pitch black at this point and I’m waiting for Jack to pay the guys, rubbing my ass to make sure its actually still there, and this random guy walks up to me. Now as you can imagine I am in no mood to be getting friendly with strangers. I’m actively avoiding eye contact with this guy in hopes that he’ll just go away. “No, I’m not going to give you money. No, I don’t need a taxi. Just leave me the hell alone man”. Just as I’m thinking this to myself he says to me “I like your shirt, you should give it to me”. This was pretty much my last straw at this point. My usual technique when someone says this kind of thing to me (which is surprisingly often), is to say right back at them that they need to give me their shirt, hat, motorcycle, etc.. Usually that gets them off my back.
So I turn around and say exactly that to this guy. Mind you though, in a much angrier voice than he had said it to me. But mid sentence, as I’m turning to face him, I see this giant Spongebob smile and big bulging white eyes on his obnoxiously bright yellow shirt, and I can’t help but immediately calm down a bit and almost crack a smile at the situation. And rather than the usual confused look and response of ‘what are you talking about, I’m not going to give you my shirt, thats ridiculous.’ He rolls his eyes up and to the side, as if seriously contemplating my proposal. After 3 or 4 seconds he looks me dead in the eyes, shrugs his shoulders a bit, and with his eyebrows cocked up, just says ‘Okay’.
I was so taken aback by the combination of his response and the giant happy spongebob face staring at me, I completely forgot that I was angry. I glanced down at my shirt, then over to spongebob’s obnoxiously large smile, and then kind of just stared at the guy for a few seconds, not really sure how to respond.
“Um…Okay” I said, still a bit confused
“Okay…Um…You, uh, Wanna. Trade. right now?” He was just as puzzled by this situation as I was.
“Uuh…Yeah. I guess. Right here?” I mean, we’re kind of standing in the middle of the road, and I’m not exactly sure whats happening right now dude, buuut…..
He shrugs his shoulders at me again and says “Um, Yeah?” Looking back to me for reaffirmation.
We both kind of go back and forth with this little game of ‘Are you sure you’re gonna do it? Cause I don’t wanna do it unless you’re definitely gonna do it. You go first’. ‘No you go first’ Like we’re two 16 year old kids with a bottle of Baily’s sitting in between us that we just stole from Dad’s liquor cabinet.
So we both hesitantly take of our shirts in the middle of this street and slowly hand them over to each other, only releasing our grip on our own shirt once we know we’ve got a firm grip on our newly found attire.
Both of our cautiously perplexed faces slowly give way to smiles once we’ve got our new shirts on our backs. We shake hands, give each other a mutual look of ‘yeah, that definitely was a bit weird, but I’m okay with it’, and go on our separate ways.
Just as I turn back around Jack has just finished paying for the motos. She turns around to look at me. “Wait a minute, were you wearing that shirt the whole time?”
“Nope, just traded some random dude on the street for it” I say back to her with a smile that surely had to rival that of my new shirt. “I’m totally ready to party right now though”