Our trip to Panama began on a most positive note. My wife, her aunt - Tante Poutine - and I were all upgraded to First Class on our Air Transat flight from Toronto to Panama City. Not bad. Eggs Benedict, cinnamon buns and a couple of mimosas and I was set for the 5 hour flight. We spent the first day and-a-half at the Panama Sheraton Four Points until the rest of the family - my wife's mother, brother and nephew - arrived from Kelowna.
With nothing else to do we took a tour. Our guide Carlos took us to the Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks where we watched a couple of tankers move through. Then it was off to the old part of Panama, much of which is under renovation. But we hit the area around noon and there was wall to wall cars on the narrow streets with nowhere to park. No problem. We'd seen the area the last time we were in Panama.
About 8pm the rest of the family arrived in a KIA van and so we loaded our luggage, golf bags and ourselves into the vehicle and the six of us took off for a two hour drive to Bijao Beach Club and Residences near San Carlos where my brother-in-law has a condo. Mrs. D and I went for a short walk to the beach, just to dip our feet in the Pacific and on our way back to the condo we ran into a ninja. Scared the bejesus out of us. The resort has dark-garbed security guards that patrol the place night and day. Being night, this guy and his sidearm seemed to appear out of nowhere. "Holla" we chirped nervously. He gave us a smile, which was about the only thing we could see in the dark, and a wave. Well, good to know we're protected. Made me think of that saying "You're in good hands with Allstate". Better than the other expression which had come to mind: "Bend over, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye". After that it became popular among us to play "spot the ninja" as we sat on the balcony of my brother-in-law's condo, sipping a cold one, in between trips to the beach. Hey - to paraphrase Sarah Palin - I can see Hawaii from here!
A couple of days after we arrived we all loaded into the van for a trip down the highway for dinner. Our waiter went to great pains to explain to us the "specials" on the menu. It's a good thing my brother-in-law speaks Spanish. He was able to tell us how highly recommended the specials were. Highly recommended, indeed. They were so highly recommended that when three of us ordered from the "specials" we learned there weren't any left. I don't know about you but when faced with a menu full of food I haven't the slightest idea what I'd get if I ordered it I always revert to that age-old maxim "when in doubt, order shrimp." So I did. Off the Appetizer part of the menu - breaded shrimp. Three others ordered shrimp off the a la carte part of the menu, two breaded, one not. They realized they might be in trouble when Mrs D's 11 year old nephew asked, "Hey, are those eyes?" Indeed they were. Have you heard that phrase "your eyes were bigger than your stomach"? On this occasion those eyes were supposed to go in their stomachs. Luckily, ordering an Appetizer, my breaded shrimps came without the eyes. I just can't eat something that's staring back at me off the plate.
But that wasn't all. The best part of the meal was yet to come. Speaking of eyes, my poor dear mother-in-law, now into her 80s and with her sight not what it once was, prevailed upon her son to open her round plastic container of tartar sauce as she was unable to. I''m not sure what was more priceless - the look on her face as she continued to insist he open the container or the look on his face as his eyes darted back and forth from his mom to his hand as he held the object of her request. "Open what, open what?" he repeated. "That, that!" she replied."What, what" he replied frustratedly. "That, that" she snapped with an equal level of frustration. It turned out that in the dimly-lit outdoor restaurant, mom and her failing eyesight had asked her son to open…a half a lime. Sure, an easy mistake. But I wonder if any of those bright-eyed shrimp would have made it.