We were in downtown Santiago, following a self-guided walking tour of Chile’s capital from the Lonely Planet. It was the second stop, at La Piojera, a legendary hole-in-the-wall, where we dutifully followed the guidebook’s instructions and ordered a terremoto (translation: an earthquake), a heady mix of cheap white wine and pineapple sorbet topped with a very strong shot of liqueur. A man in the crowd slapped my husband on the back for ordering the concoction, held up two fingers and made the “Okay” symbol. Then his face got serious. He held up three fingers, shook his head and made the universal gesture for insanity. We looked at one another and swore we’d have two – no more. It was 1 p.m., for God’s sake, and we were on our honeymoon.
But the terremoto is deceptive, and herein lies the danger. They’re crazy-strong, but you feel lucid, not drunk. Time speeds up – and now you’re the sharpest person in the room.
After 11/2 drinks, my husband was best friends with everyone in the cavernous bar – posing for pictures with adoring college girls and leading shouts of, “Chi-chi-chi! Lay-lay-lay! Viva Chile!” with the boys. When he swaggered back to our table, his new man purse was gone, despite the fact that a bunch of us hadn’t moved from our seats. A ponytailed Chilean guy we’d just made friends with started crying at this misfortune.
That should have been a clue.
After the second drink, I went to the dingy washroom, a frigid, cramped space where a stall-keeper hands out squares of toilet paper as if they’re sheets of gold. After weeks of hiking high in the Andes and deep in the canyons of Peru (and “holding it in” as most of us do), the terremoto kick-started my system. There are no seats on these toilets, so I hovered over what I thought was the bowl – and completely missed the mark. I was mortified. It’s amazing how far you can stretch three squares of toilet paper when you need to. I walked out in shock, determined not to tell my husband, or anyone else.
Near the bottom of our third drinks, we decided to continue the tour. My husband was sad about his “murse,” so we went to a department store. I wandered into the women’s department and forced him to wait and weigh in on piles of mediocre clothes that I thought looked amazing (it was the drink talking), until he left to find a washroom.
I was paying for armloads of stuff (which I returned when sober), when my husband appeared, white as a sheet, insisting we leave immediately.
“What happened to you?” I asked him desperately. Finally, he told me he’d been desperate to urinate and had run from floor to floor seeking directions to the baños, but everyone pointed in a different direction. In a moment of absolute panic, he broke the dam in a broom closet.
He confessed, I confessed; we burst out laughing.
What can I say? Those terremotos lived up to their name.
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