Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Radio Protocol

The Girls on the Net
The Girls on the Net
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The VHF is hooked to my backpack strap, volume low but the speaker only about eight inches from my ear. This is a compromise; I can listen for the girls while not disturbing the people at the market as I do the morning shopping. I am surrounded in fast talking, short older Mexican women who are haggling with the produce seller, waving pieces of fruit and bunches of carrots as they argue over quality, price, or the weather. I have no idea; They all speak Spanish.

“Don Quixote Mobile, Don Quixote Mobile, this is Don Quixote Niñas.” Aeron is on the VHF, her voice so very young and high and -- let’s face it -- girly. The mamas pay no attention, sorting multicolored peppers using criteria I find completely unfathomable.

With the ease of much practice, I reach up to my shoulder and key on, “Don Quixote Niñas, this is Don Quixote Mobile.”

“One seven?” the small voice asks.

“One seven,” I agree. This is a favorite channel and preprogrammed into the handheld so I switch in two clicks. “Don Quixote Mobile on 17.”

“Don Quixote Niñas on 17. Can we spend the afternoon doing play practice on Kamaya?” A whispered conference then, “And maybe a sleep over?”

For the girls, staying in an anchorage for any length of time is a license to move on to other boats. Jaime disappears with the ten to tween crowd, Mera and Aeron generally stick to the elementary set. Out of a sense of obligation, I routinely attempt to get them to bring the kids back to our boat. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. “School checks all done?”

There is a dramatic sigh on the other end of the radio and more urgent consultation. “Mera says she has one check left, and I finished everything except my math.” Aeron’s voice changes to a plea for understanding and generosity which she knows will not be forthcoming. Yet, nevertheless she will try. My girls are not quitters. “Mom... we can do an extra check tomorrow. Please?”

Silence. I don’t even bother to key in to sigh. There is no point.


It’s easier to just let her hang there while I proceed to select fruit from the large produce display in front of me. The Mercado Municipale is a busy, noisy place. My conversation with the girls is largely going unheeded by the locals, though I suspect DrC may be paying closer attention. I also suspect the woman in front of me is impugning the ancestry or manhood of our produce vendor. He doesn’t look happy.

“Okay,” comes the resigned voice. “We will finish our checks.”

At this point, Don Quixote Jaime pipes in, “Break break! Info!” At the sound of Jaime’s voice, DrC cocks an eyebrow, his attention drawn from the display of tomatoes and cilantro he is picking through.

“Don Quixote Jaime, go ahead,” I say.

Jaime reminds us, “You said we could watch Blue Planet as a science check tonight. I’ve got to babysit on Love Song this afternoon.”

I don’t remember saying this. I don’t remember much of the morning at all. Did I say that? I ask DrC with a look. He shrugs. I might have. He can’t remember either. The morning is a blur. It was at least two hours ago. In cruiser time, this might as well be infinity ago. Crap. Executive decision time. Bottom line, do we want the afternoon to ourselves messing around with the sewing machine and water maker, or do we want to do something responsible like take the kids on an expedition to the local museum.

“Right. Go ahead.” I’m a lightening fast decision maker. The avocados, a cabbage, and a hicama drop bang bang bang into my plastic shopping bowl as I start to demonstrate the program management authority for which I used to get paid the big bucks. With a sharp shake of my head, I reject DrC’s attempt to include a watermelon. Who the hell wants to carry that back to the dinghy dock? “Check in...”

I’m interrupted as the girls burst out, “Don Quixote Niñas clear to 22 alpha.” “Don Quixote Big Girl back to two two.” DrC throws me a disgusted look as I mumble, “Clear to 22,” and fumble with the VHF. While the marketing is going well -- our vendor happily taking money from the argumentative old women and then reaching for my selections -- I could perhaps have been a bit more thorough in establishing the location and plans of my offspring before signing out.

Give Em Sh* Mom!
Give Em Sh* Mom!
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
“That’s if you can get them back,” DrC warns as he reluctantly releases the melon. My children are free spirited wild animals wafting through the marina, the old town and the anchorage. They’ve been adopted by fifty pairs of cruising grandparents, sworn oaths of lifelong friendship with children on boats we haven’t even met. They earn money baby sitting and scrubbing bottoms; they help Meercat prepare finger foods for a potluck, ferry guests to a party on Vltava, and attend jam sessions around campfires with Hipnautical. Our control over them is remote and dicey at best.

Faced with another childless afternoon, DrC hands me a bag of limes and asks, “Internet or sex?” Suddenly, it appears that everyone in the produce section knows English after all and activity pauses for a moment while the group of shoppers awaits my executive decision.

The mamas nod approvingly and the vendor laughs as I reprimand my husband, “You know, Dean. This is how we got into this trouble in the first place.”


Jim and Heather on Meerkat said...

Oh yea - maybe a 4th little girl to help me make finger foods?? And meatloaf?

Relentless Toil said...

Hah! This was brilliant.
You'll have to explain the channel changing to me, though. Do you have to keep changing channels because they flake out, or what?