Scenes from a beachside restaurant, part II

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Our final days at the beach brought an untimely arrival of heavy wind and rain. Luckily the open air restaurant that had become our mainstay had a covering that didn’t leak too much. Dave was sleeping in, so I found myself wandering down to the ocean to lose another day to a book and a solid view of the Gulf of Thailand.

It was early in the morning- around ten, and I was surprised to see that people were out on the beach. To my luck the rain would not ruin the people watching, and I could spend my day in much the same way we’d spent the previous ones: watching the seaside vendors carry their displays of bracelets and boiled eggs in large baskets on their heads, smelling the salty ocean air, and terrifying the restaurant owner’s daughter every time I acknowledge her curious stares. Perfect.

It was at that very moment of reveling that a group of 15 year old travelers sat at the coffee table next to me. I don’t actually know their age, but judging by the number of times I heard ‘oh my god, did your mom want to kill you?!?’, I have determined the age range of my neighbors could be no more than 15. They had yellow paint on their cheeks and hands, and an air of owning their words that only teenagers can pull off. I was intrigued. I kept my book open in my hands and held on as much as possible to the conversation to my left…

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One girl ordered a Mai Tai from the bar. The drink came surprisingly fast, and was delivered by an actual adult. There was a plate of something that was set down with the drink– something that I had not overheard the ordering of. The kids grabbed at the plate like it was a pile of fries, and in my peripheral vision I watched as they all collectively lit up a round of joints. Big joints- longer than my middle finger could extend. Bad joints, not something that is enjoyable to smell burning at the table next you. It was the weed equivalent of prison wine.. It was ruining the salty sea air.

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I sat there listening to their vacuous conversations… They were clearly a group from both Great Britian and the US. I wondered what brought them to Cambodia… How they met each other. I wondered why they weren’t in school… And then I realized I couldn’t remember what month it was, and couldn’t determine whether school was in or not. Then I thought about what they were doing right there on a busy boardwalk…that there were children present… Then a realization hit me: wait, those joints were ordered…

I grabbed for the menu sitting at the edge of my table and thumbed through it… Nothing. I got up and casually grabbed a menu from the stack at the end of the bar. Two pages in the back were stuck together with what I assume was Mai Tai mix. I made an obvious show of relieving the two pages, finding the hidden menu the kids had so quickly identified:

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Our beloved beachside establishment was a hash house. I didn’t get it. We’d been regulars here for three days now.

…Did I not look hip enough to have access to the cool kid’s version of the menu? It wasn’t that I wanted any of the crap on their table, it was that I’d been discriminated against. I was flummoxed. For the first time, I was the old person at the bar– too uncool to handle the underground scene of Sihanoukville.

I ceremoniously traded my menu for the unabridged version. I set it down on my table in an overdramatized attempt at attracting attention. ‘There, that will show them!’ Then I looked around, realized that no one was paying me any attention whatsoever, and concluded that this was just one of those growing up moments for me. I accepted my new, mature, more civilized and wise persona, and calmly went back to my book.

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