About a year ago, I was on a bus ride with a load of cousins, friends, potential future friends, in-laws, outlaws, and the owner of the bus company, my cousin Dave. Dave actually meets most of the aforementioned criteria. It was a miracle of major proportions that I was even on that bus since just a mere hour or two before I had been on the Mississippi River in a kayak. That story will be told in conjuncture with the Camino story in a future book.
Across from me, my brother-in-law lounged contentedly with headphones on, oblivious to the cacophony of sounds emanating around him. A short time later, he handed them over to me, saying they were an amazing product. “They are Bose noise silencers,” he said. T”hey block out all noises, especially cousin noises. Here–try them. You can either just use them for quiet, or you can listen to music.”
He was listening to Credence Clearwater Revival, a 70’s group I had introduced him to back so many years ago. I turned him away from country music toward rock and roll. I was a bad influence already back then.
The sound clarity was superb, but what really amazed me was what happened after the bad moon had risen and do do do had looked out his back door. Silence. Blissful silence.
In the short time he was separated from the headphones, folks were already attempting to involve him in five conversations. I quickly handed them back to him with a quick reminder to myself to purchase a set. Let me tell you, they are expensive, but what a relief to own them.
When I determined to hike the Camino in Spain, I did buy a pair. The long flight overseas was made tolerable by my Bose noise silencers.
Where I got my money’s worth out of them, though, was in the hostels on the Camino. To truly get the flavor of the Camino, one should stay in the Albergues. They are for hikers and are reasonably priced at around 8 – 10 euros a night. That’s about 12 to 15 dollars. Don’t let me mislead you and have you believe it’s a pleasant night of lodging. It’s typically not. Allow me to take you through a recent night at one such Albergue.
READER WARNING!!! There is no redeeming value in what you are about to read. If you are offended by bodily noises coming from various orifices, you will most assuredly be disgusted and offended. This is your exit. Take it.
So you didn’t take my advice. Your right to complain has been waived at this point.
Several weeks ago, I was in a hostel with about 20 other wanderers. Some were fellow pilgrims I was familiar with plus some new ones. Two new Germans had entered the fold that day. One was a big ‘un. Big belly, uncouth, with no shame. He pranced about showing off more of his Germanity than anyone cared to see. I immediately pegged him as a snorer. I unzipped my headphones and got them ready.
Let me regress a bit and go over some rules. Lights out are at 10. There always seems to be that one or two who don’t realize those rules apply to them. They come into the hostel 10 minutes after lights out, strap their headlamp on, and slowly unfurl their backpacks. Everything is stored in plastic bags which rustle and keep everyone awake. Their heads bob and weave, blasting their spotlights in all directions. Yes, those two reflections of light coming back at you are the glare in my eyes. They whisper while all this ruffling is going on, making everyone in the room strain to hear what the interlopers are saying.
The amazing thing is these late and overweight people are the first to fall asleep.
We now return to our regularly scheduled program. Some of you are still hoping for that one good apple in a bushel of rotten ones. Sorry, folks. Should have exited while you could. I’m on a bus heading back to Santiago and have nothing better to do.
Meanwhile, back at the hostel, I’m settling in. German man flumps into bed and, within 30 seconds, is sleeping. Whoa Nellie, what’s happening? Snoring like I’ve never heard before. It’s the granddaddy of all bullfrogs. German man is sawing logs with a timbre that takes me to my brother-in-law’s pond. I lay on my back, close my eyes, and pretend I’m there. I’m sitting at the edge of the pond. The big frog is croaking and other snorers are chiming in. My reverie is interrupted by an amazing new snorer–weedeater snorer. I kid you not, it sounded exactly like it sounds when you try to start your weedeater but it won’t start. I just included him in my pond picture. He was going to trim grass around my imaginary pond.
The whole imaginary scene was rudely interrupted by a staccato blast from the corner bed. Gas gremlins had escaped on their way to the ozone layer. Now understand this, that probably couldn’t be helped. You see, during the day we cinch our backpack belts so tight around our stomachs, we trap those offensive gasses. Occasionally a bubble slips under the belt and must be released for the good of one’s health. But how, one asks? Most folks are polite and won’t make a scene. One way I discovered that works is if the hiker is close to a road and a semi comes roaring by. That is your opportunity to join the truck in expelling exhaust fumes. I know some of you are aghast at this, but you were warned.
There are other ways as well but usually it’s just allowed to collect as one toxic cloud awaiting the right time to find freedom. Sadly, this often happens at night when the body is relaxed and the rear guard is not as engaged.
The night in question, this staccato burst wafted across the room of croaking frogs seeking a crevasse to slide out into the night. Hey, toxic cloud, weed eater man could use some gas over his way.
It just became a bit too much for this tired hiker. I smiled to myself, slipped the Bose noise silencers on, and rolled over with a grimace, thinking to myself, “Blissful misery.”