About 7 years ago, I was walking south on Manhattan's Orchard Street. An older man passed me, walking north. He eyeballed me.
"You still got it."
Aghast, I'd thought I wasn't aware I'd lost it. Talk about a backhanded compliment. At 35, I wasn't exactly sagging around the edges.
Today, seven years later, his comment might be appropriate. In the 9-person group I was in Bolivia with, I felt more an outsider than an active participant. I'd been on a half-dozen small group expeditions in the past, but on the other trips, I'd been of the median age. Now I was the only one in my age group.
The two younger women primped and vamped and made themselves up at night for dinner (our men were oblivious). I watched them with a little envy but mostly with relief. Let them put on the show. I wasn't here to flirt. I didn't feel any pressure to perform or even to shower. But I like to stay clean so I showered when I could, like on the last morning in Uyuni before we were to go into the salt flats for three days.
Hair still sopping wet, I got into one of the two Land Cruisers. After we left Uyuni and stopped by the train cemetery, we headed towards the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, home of salt flats, lagoons, and pink flamingos.
An hour or so's drive into the trip, we stopped off in the small town of San Cristobal for a potty break. The other women and I trotted into the mercado and lined up outside the public toilet, near an unusually tall, handsome Bolivian man who was chatting with his friends.
A small boy attendant held out some toilet paper to me and said "Uno Boliviano." The fee for the toilet was one coin.
I reached into my jeans pocket.
I checked my other pockets. I had nothing but large bills. No one ever has change in the unindustrialized world. I blanched... I didn't have the money to enter the ladies room.
The handsome Bolivian man then stepped in. He gallantly forked over one of his own coins, smiled, and waved me into the ladies room.
I reddened and walked in, as my group and a few Bolivians tittered behind me. Better than a drink, a man had bought me a pee.
I still got it.