Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Heroic Men

I grew up with a father who said (once I was of an age), "Men are only after one thing" and a youth adviser who played a prominent role in my upbringing who would always say, "Men are pigs".  Fortunately for me, the first time I ever encountered a completely pig-like man happened at the age of 31.  Here is the story...

Last weekend in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Peter and I had the opportunity to be join up with Peter's good friend from college, Sam and another American, John.  The two of them, with teammates that had already left, had just finished teaching a week-long course on ethical business entrepreneurship at a local university.  Three university students were  gracious enough to give us a tour of the city on Saturday.

We went first to a place where you can ride a gondola from the base of a good-sized hill to its top.  It was on this gondola that we first met The Guy. 

On the ride up, squished together like sardines with a few missing, this guy begins joining in on our English conversation.  (I later found out that while on the gondola, Sam had asked him if he was in Almaty alone.  He responded, "Yes, unless I get lucky.")  At the time, he just seemed like super friendly American.

Only, he was too friendly and once we disembarked from the gondola, he did not leave our group alone.  He was particularly conversant with one of the local girls with us.  At one point, we were standing in a circle, looking into the mountains and chatting.  Peter was standing beside me, until he left, walked to a far away trashcan and when he came back he butted himself back into the circle in between the guy and the local girl.  (I, being a bit oblivious, only thought Peter had lost his usually great sense of social norms...). 

The guy used a pretty slick line - he asked the girl if there was horseback riding in Almaty and if he could get her contact info so that the next time he was in Almaty she could arrange it for him.  At this point, Sam and Peter turned so the guy couldn't see but the girl could and said "No, don't give him your number".  It was seriously like a bad movie.  We kept moving locations, he kept tagging along.  Of course, he was super friendly and talkative, but somehow he kept ending up next to the girl and Sam and Peter kept having to run interference.  Did I mention that the guy was at least 55 years old? And the local girl, about 21?

Finally, we had completed a loop and our group was going to go do a small rollercoaster on the mountain and the guy, having obtained a fake number from the girl, left to ride the gondola back down.  Or so we thought. 

Suddenly, as we are waiting to pay for the rollercoaster, there he was again.  Not funny. 

Then, the girl and another university student go up to the window to pay.  And guess what?  The guy butts himself in between the two students and says, "Let me pay for you".  At which point, Peter had had it.  Peter says, "Okay, you know what? Thanks but no thanks.  We are all hanging out here....etc..." and I don't even know what else was said.  (Why don't I know?  Because this loving, ever supportive wife suddenly found that her feet had transported her 10 feet away, and she was hiding behind another part of our group.  Hmm.. can we say conflict-avoidance issues?)  I do know that voices were raised, then the guy left and got on the rollercoaster.  Luckily the roller coaster cars were separate and by the time we finished the roller coaster, the guy was gone.

May the Lord redeem his soul.  Soon.

Perhaps men no longer stand guard with the shotguns outside of a circle of wagons, perhaps we womenfolk no longer need them to be the breadwinners, perhaps the horizons are bigger and broader for both genders these days, but I'll tell you what, I feel more protected and safe because their are men like Sam and Peter (and so many others I know) in the world.

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