Naked and Famous
I don’t know many people who have been on Caribbean TV without their pants on, but I am one of them. And I swear, with hand on heart, that it’s true.
I’m a sailor and I’d been invited to come and race in St. Maarten, a small Caribbean Island that every year hosts “The Heineken Regatta”. You don’t need to know a huge amount about sailing to know that there is a lot of drinking involved in the sport. So can you imagine what it’s like when a group of sailors come together from all over the world to meet in the beautiful Caribbean to sail in a regatta that is sponsored by a BEER company? Needless to say, the bits of it that I can remember were truly wild, and to top it all off, the boat I was sailing on won the regatta. It’s not like we needed the excuse to drink any more than we were, but now we were really pushing the limits of alcohol tolerance.
To my credit, I was trying to behave myself. I had only just met most of the people I was sailing with at the start of the week, and I was trying to make a good impression by staying relatively sober. But when you’re surrounded by free beer, in the Caribbean, with your new best friends, it’s pretty hard to keep control over your beer intake, and like all big nights of drinking there soon came a tipping point between “in control” and “way, way out of control”. The tipping point this time came at the worst possible moment: right before we were about to go on stage and accept our prize in front of a few thousand rowdy sailors and Caribbean locals. It was hot, and I was drunk… very drunk.
My colleagues, observing the rolling back of my eyes and slurring of my speech, hatched a plan behind my back. If I’m being honest with myself, I knew something was going down – I may have been drunk, but my sixth sense was tingling and I felt an unnatural degree of focus directed towards my crotch from people I hardly knew.
And before you could say “Heineken please”, it was already too late. The combination of not wearing a belt, my drunkenly slow reflexes and being “the new guy” came together in a frenzy of action that had me suddenly standing in front of a crowd of thousands covering my shame with one hand and trying desperately to retrieve my pants with the other all the while thinking: “Thank God I wore underwear tonight.” It was certainly one of my finest moments, but it was only going to get worse.
Later that night, as I stood at the bar after the prize giving ceremony attempting to very poorly chat up two recent divorcees from the US, the puller-downer of my pants from earlier in the evening saw an easy target and snuck up on me for a second time. Luckily for me this time I was just too intoxicated to notice. So as my pants came down I stood there without flinching and continued my uninspiring attempt to impress my new American lady friends. Obviously unsatisfied with my lack of response, and with determination in his eyes, the serial offender approached me for a third time, and pulled down my boxer shorts. Now I was standing in front of two middle-aged women in a bar completely naked from the waist down suffering from a condition men refer to as “shrinkage”. I was also suffering from a poorly-timed bout of stage fright and knew that my only move was to play it cool. Looking them dead in the eye, I said casually: “It’s just really cold in here.” There was a pause. Maybe the longest pause of my entire life. My heart was beating like a marathon runner and I could feel my hands clamming up. This was had the potential to go very, very well. The woman on the left looked down at where my manhood should have been, took a moment, and looked back up into my eyes. She let out a deep, heart-stopping sigh and said flatly, “It’s not that cold.”
I was deaf to the jeering and taunting of my friends around me as I left the bar. My night was over; my life was probably over as well. I would spend the rest of my days as a hermit, venturing outside only for fast-food and liquor. But for now, it was time for the warm, non-judgemental embrace of my bed. The dawning of a new day a few hours later should have been my light at the end of the tunnel. I was flying out of the Caribbean back home to a place where nobody would ever have to know about the events of that night. So as I sat in the hotel lobby with a Burger King coffee in my hand and my sunglasses glued to my face, it was a great relief to see the cab coming around the corner to whisk me to safety. I stepped out into the street as the cab driver turned off his engine and jumped out of the car.
Spotting me his face lit up: (Bob Marley accent) “Hey mahn! Don’t I know you from some place mahn!?”
“Nope”, I shrugged, “I’ve never been to the Caribbean before.”
He shook his head and started to laugh.
“Nooo! I’ve seen you on the tee vee mahn! You was dancin’ around without yah pants on mahn!”
I came to the Caribbean with the best of intentions. I left naked, and famous.