Every Adventurer's Fantasy

Children's adventure story writers popularized it, and then Hollywood made it a trite formula: the hardy explorer fights his sweaty way through the cobra infested jungles, stumbles into a village lost in time, is captured and about to be eaten when suddenly the chief comes to him begging for his help to save his sick son. And of course our hero remembers that packet of aspirin in his shirt pocket and manages to save the chief's son from some malady over the objections of the snubbed witch doctor. And of course, our hero becomes the local hero, honored by the village, rewarded by the chief, and saved from the boiling cauldron.

Well, exactly this kind of adventure happened to me—well, almost exactly.

We'd fought our way through the steaming thick cobra infested jungles (actually a teak forest, and all the cobras had been captured and eaten years earlier). Gasping for air, drenched in sweat, hungry and tired we dramatically stumbled into a village and collapsed in the first hut we came to. Much of the village gathered around staring at us, talking in their ancient language (well actually, the children were singing "Waltzing Matilda" and the adults trying to sell us handicrafts), but I'm sure one of them must have been the local witch doctor.

That night, after we had been scrutinized and tested in mysterious ways (Hello, want whiskey?), the chief approached me as I sat next to a bamboo fire. He was

deeply concerned, I could read it on his face, and I suspected our very survival depended on what happened next (actually, the only part of this paragraph that is true is that some guy did approach me around a bamboo fire—I found out later he was the village chief).

With the universal sign language used exclusively between village chiefs and hardy explorers he made known his concern and hope that I could use my advanced Western knowledge to save his people. Sensing the importance of this moment I arose to the occasion, full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, taken no prisoners, do you have any more of that whiskey?. Fearing nothing but fear itself, I donned my reading glasses and went to work. I could do this, I kept repeating to myself. I knew I could, I could help these simple and gentle hill people. I could save them in their time-lost village and make their lives better.

I wiped the sweat from my brow, and with the nimble fingers of one hand (the other wrist was broken from the fall off the elephant the day before), I alone accomplished the impossible and brought order to the way of the village and put order back into the chaos of the jungle.

I was able in those few moments, next to the fire and under the stars of the tropics and the eyes of the villagers (one of whom had to be a doubting witch doctor, I'm sure) to set the correct time on the chief's new multi-function digital watch that was a gift to him from the local government authority. He was pleased and proud, and he rewarded me with a smile and another slug of local whiskey. And I was a local hero and we were not eaten, although I was getting stewed.

Except for one thing. I couldn't figure out how to turn off the alarm function. And now, at the stroke of midnight every night for as long as the batteries last, that watch will awaken the village like an electronic rooster. Who knows what havoc that will create? And our only choice was to hand the watch back to the chief with a smile, and beat a hasty retreat down the mountain the next day before the stroke of the next midnight and the sleep-deprived villagers rolled out the old cauldron.

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