RC Cola and a suntan disaster

By Jim Callicott

For those of you who have married someone from another country, you will know of what I speak. Together you and I share a common bond of misspoken English and customs which make no sense to us All-American types.

My wife is from the Philippines. Since we have been married and I have made several trips to the Philippines, I am convinced that Filipino babies are born and raised so they can move to another country and live. And when they move, they take their brand of English and traditional customs with them.

For example, my wife was trying to tell a neighbor that girls in the Philippines live at home until they get married. The explanation came out as, “Girls in the Philippines who aren’t married stay at home and live in their mother’s underwear.”

Then there was the time we were having a discussion and she emphasized her point by saying, “Don’t you understand? It’s as clear as a bumblebee.” I never fully understood that statement.

But the custom that had the greatest impact on me occurred at a secluded beach on the Gulf of Mexico near Destin, Florida. We were there with friends for a four day mini-vacation which happen to coincide with my birthday.

The first two days we sat on the balcony and watched the rain. Rain is not the first ingredient you want on a beach vacation. On the third day, my birthday, the rain clouds disappeared and the Sun was out with all of its glory. Time to hit the beach.

I grabbed two towels and a tube of suntan lotion. She opened the refrigerator and took out a can of RC Cola. For a quick second my mind considered she was going to have a cold drink on the beach. Was I ever wrong.

We walked the few feet from the condo to the beach. I placed the towels on a beach chair and started to unscrew the cap to the suntan lotion. She opened the can of cola, poured some in her hand and began to rub it on her arm.

“What are you doing?” I asked. Looking up at me she replied, “In the Philippines this is what we use for suntan lotion. The sugar helps the skin tan and the cola color helps make it darker.”

It sounded logical to me. So, I began to rub RC Cola all over my body. When you’re already dark skinned, this will probably work. For a light skinned person like me, once you apply the cola you should immediately call the nearest emergency room and make an appointment.

After approximately three hours in the sun, we returned to the condo. I took a quick cool shower to wash off the cola and sand and put on a shirt and pair of shorts. Shortly thereafter, the shirt came off. I was hot. I was hurting. And I was a bright shade of red.

I didn’t go to the emergency room, which was a big mistake, but instead went to a nearby souvenir shop and purchased a bottle of aloe vera lotion. Returning to the condo, I covered myself with the lotion and prayed for a snowstorm.

We retired for the evening. My wife said to turn out the light. “The light is out,” I replied, “That’s me glowing!”

We had to return home the next day. I drove 426 miles clad in only a pair of shorts with a towel on the back of the car seat so my body wouldn’t touch the leather covering. The air conditioner was on full blast.

I was off work for a full week. My wife showed great compassion by keeping cold towels in the refrigerator to wrap around my shoulders and trying not to laugh at me.

I immediately switched to drinking diet sodas as they contain no sugar. I have not touched a can of RC Cola since that day. It’s not that they don’t taste good, it’s just that I have memories. I also haven’t been back to the beach, any beach.

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