It finally happened. I finally gave in to the ever present touts and vendors and then came to realize my mistake.
We were sitting at a beach front reggae bar on Otres beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia watching the waves and sun. I was a couple of pineapple daiquiris into the afternoon. Along came the bazillionth person offering me a massage or a pedicure to which I repeated my customary “no thank you” a few times.
But this one was more persistent. She sat down next to us and started up a conversation. Her English was great and she was quite funny so I engaged in conversation, that was my first mistake. She next started offering to thread my legs and before I knew it she was demonstrating on a patch. If I had shaved my legs at any point in the past week she wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate on me. Hairy legs, mistake number two.
It was actually amazingly painless and seemed pretty quick and effective so I was intrigued. I know lots of people who have their eyebrows threaded and others who have their legs waxed and they all swear by it. The hair takes longer to grow back, it comes in softer and lighter, you won’t have to shave for weeks, etc etc. I would never pay for it at home because it’s too expensive and I don’t like to pay other people to do things I can do for myself. But here in the developing world labor is cheaper and not having to shave while on our Maldives cruise was sounding pretty appealing.
So I asked how much it would cost. “$5 half leg.”
“Ok, so how much for both?”
“$12 both legs.”
Clearly this is an example of common core math or some other strange system where 5 x 2 = 12. Or maybe she’s just had more daiquiris than me.
But I give in, because the prospect of not shaving for a few weeks seems absolutely worth $12 at this point in my life. Mistake number three, I am now a very captive audience as she is now in possession of one of my legs.
Before we know it, half a dozen women are offering massages, manicures, pedicures, friendship bracelets, and aloe treatments to both my husband and I. After a few dozen “no thank you”s and increasingly stern looks they mostly relented, but one remained talking in Khmer to my leg lady. I saw that she was working on making a friendship bracelet but didn’t realize until later that it matched my swimsuit. Again, before my semi-inebriated brain can process what’s happening, a color coordinated anklet is being tied on to my captive leg.
“Don’t, don’t, DON’T tie it on!”
She keeps tying.
“NO, don’t do it! Don’t tie it on! I don’t want one!”
She ties it on anyway.
I have now been marked for all vendors to see that I am a foolish tourist who can be had. And I may have to argue about not paying for something I didn’t want anyways whenever I regain custody of my leg.
Somewhere in the midst of this chaos the price has gone up from $12 to $25, which again is NOT equal to 12 x 2. Apparently “$5 half leg” means the left or right side of one leg below the knee. “$12 for both” means both the left and right side of one leg below the knee. And somehow 5 x 2 = 12 and 12 x 2 = 25 in Cambodia. Mistake number four, didn’t get the price in writing.
At this point the sun is getting lower on the horizon and our entire reason for visiting Otres beach was to see the sunset. I refuse to be held captive and miss this blissful event. What is a logical reason to have her only do one leg? I want to conduct a scientific experiment and see how many times I have to shave the other leg before shaving this one? That will only make sense to me. We’re meeting people at some time? Yes! That sounds plausible!
So I invent imaginary friends and guess some random time that I hope is in the not too distant future and would explain why we need to leave now.
“Oh that’s plenty of time.”
“No, I need to go home and shower and dry and my hair.”
“I can do fast. Only 10 minutes.”
Based on my experience I know this is a blatant lie and continue insisting. Meanwhile the husband has asked for the bill from 3 different servers to no avail. The bartenders seem to be in on the whole “keep the tourists as hostages and keep running up their bills” scam.
Finally, she is convinced that we really are going to go.
“$15” she says .
“I thought it was $25 for two legs or $12 for just one?”
“$12 plus tip. $15” she smiles.
At this point I would probably have just handed over my wallet to regain control of my own leg so I pull out three $5s and hand them over.
“Tomorrow I do other leg?”
“No we’re flying out in the morning.”
“I come 8am. Papa Pippo’s”
Oh f*ck, she knows where we’re staying.
“Haha, NO, I will still be in bed at 8 am.”
Finally we were allowed to leave and able to pay our bar tab. And I was able to untie the anklet so I am no longer such an obvious target.
On the walk back the husband says, “You know she’s gonna be outside our bungalow at 8am, right?”
“Yeah, most likely, but I have a plan. I’m gonna go back and shave everything she could possibly offer to do, so there’s nothing for her to touch!”