Compact wisdom

It was our last full day in Bali. At lunch, Mia and I ended up arguing over what I would do next. She was going to a market to buy gifts. I was considering a swim at Kuta Beach.

“The sun is blazing,” Mia said. “You’ll fry to a crisp. You already have a farmer’s neck.”

“But I want to swim,” I said. “I haven’t touched seawater yet.”

“And who’s fault is that?” Mia asked.

She had a point. I drank tap water in Ubud and was out of circulation, so to speak, for two days.

“I guess—”

“Swim at the hotel,” she smiled. “There’s shade and lots of old ladies to protect you should something go wrong.”

I had to admit that the idea of going to Kuta Beach had its downsides, even for me. I’d spend an hour in the taxi to get there from Sanur to begin with. Then I’d have to keep my money and the room key in my pocket while I swam. And then I’d have to sit for another hour or more in a taxi to get back.

“I could swim beyond the reef,” I suggested.

Sanur has a pond of a beach due to a reef about two hundred meters offshore. I could wade to this reef, cross it, and swim in the big waves beyond.

“Are you out of your mind?” Mia asked. “It’s high tide at four.”

“So? I’ll get back before then.”

Mia gave me a look I had seen all too often over the better part of my adult life, a look I have come to associate with the tail ends of arguments.

“You couldn’t even float down small rapids in the Skykomish River without getting banged up. How the hell are you going to come back over a roaring reef?”

She was referring to a recent surge of testosterone which had compelled my friend Xavier and I to float down small rapids in the Skykomish River, rapids that turned out to be much larger when experienced in person.

“I’ll just take a look,” I said.

“You’re an idiot,” Mia concluded.

At the hotel, I walked to the sea and came out onto the esplanade where the hotel security guard sat in his little booth. As I stood, hands on my hips, and looked out to the reef, he spoke up. “What you thinking?” he asked.

“I think,” I said, “maybe to swim at the reef.”

The guard shook his head. “No,” he said summarily. “Stupid. Water stong. Coral sharp. No good.”

As I walked back to the hotel, I wondered what life would have been like if Mia had been possessed of such compact wisdom.

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  1. My guess is that life would have been a lot less fun and you would have fewer stories to tell if Mia had possessed such compact wisdom…a mixed bag, if there ever was one.