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Panama Real Estate Flight From Hell

“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders” Moose told me. It was the second time I had heard that saying in about a week and I was pressed into envisioning just what exactly someone would look like who did not have a good head on their shoulders. A bobble-head doll was as far as I got when Carl interrupted again:

“Excuse me but can you move out of my way? If you don’t I’m gonna pee in my pants.”

I had bought my plane ticket on extremely short notice and consequently been penalized with perhaps the worst seat in the entire aircraft. 18B. After arriving and seating myself next to a little boy in the window seat, I thought that would be the extent of my punishment—an annoying child. “Hi” he said with this loud shriek before I even had a chance to take my seat, “I’m Carl.” Carl was small, about the size of a young bobcat, and had this piercingly annoying personality which I’m sure his mother and teachers labeled as inquisitive.

I sat there getting situated as Carl yapped my ear off about a number of things; from the new sneakers he had scored for his birthday, to his wobbly front tooth which, in my opinion, was destined to come out during our time together. Carl was in the middle of demonstrating its imminence when the reality of the next few hours set in. A large walrus-of-a-man appeared at our row, the shadow of his frame darkening about half the cabin. The man looked at his seat, then looked at Carl and me as if we were somehow part of the problem. “Why are you so fat?” Carl blurted out.

Children have my utmost respect when it comes to being blunt and Carl, with that one question, had impressed me. “Well” the fat man said, “I guess I eat a lot.” You can say that again, I thought to myself.

“Jeez, I could fit four of me in your tummy!” Carl was really talking from his heart and I couldn’t help but smirk with approval. The man sat down and wedged himself between the armrests, becoming lodged like an overstuffed sausage. In an effort to make him more comfortable, I scooted a little bit closer to Carl giving Moose (as we would come to find out) some extra space.

Moose was a Florida native, heading to Panama for what he termed “a real estate venture”. He wore one of those futuristic earpieces connected to his cell phone which allowed him to use his hands to do other things, like eat. On his feet were some of the biggest therapeutic shoes I’ve ever seen, close to the size of footballs. When he asked why I was going to Panama, I told him I was a professional shark breeder, and being that Moose (like most people) had never met a professional shark breeder before, I was able to explain to him just what it was I did. Carl took real interest in my profession, asking typical-industry questions like, “do sharks fart?” and “do sharks poop?”

Moose was fifty nine. He and his 77 million co-baby boomers are the group that is targeted for Panama’s current real estate thrust. He is part of a psychographic that simply is ready to retire, move somewhere new, and start again. Alongside the baby boomers too, is the late-twenties to early forties demographic: Panama must groom itself for the eventual Generation Xers—a generation characterized by big challenges, international flings, and anything but the typical corporate ladder. People like Moose are tired and frustrated of the chronic workaholism and ready for something new. When I heard him use phrases like “start living again” and “take a risk for once”, I knew good things would be waiting for him in Panama.

“I don’t have a whole lot (of money)” Moose said, “but I’m really excited to see where what I do have will take me. What’s life without a little risk?”

The flight to Panama City was characterized by deafening chatter and zero breathing room. But in Moose, a symbolic viewpoint was established and for that I felt lucky. Not everyone can just up and leave for a tropical paradise, but for some, it’s not as far off as they think. When the plane eventually landed and everyone turned on their cell phones, there was a chorus of chiming and dingles. One woman, upon hearing the messages delivered to her phone mid-flight, burst out screaming which eventually melted into tears.

“What’s wrong?” Carl asked her. “An alligator ate my dog!” she howled. “An alligator ate Teapot!” Everyone on the plane gasped and it was true: sometime during our flight, a ravenous alligator had climbed out of a lake near to her home and eaten her beloved nine year-old llhasa apso. The tragedy happened completely out of the blue.

I pictured Teapot planning what she was going to do that evening or maybe thinking about what she’d eat for an afternoon snack. What Teapot didn’t know was that life, more specifically a 5-foot alligator, had other plans for her. I pictured Teapot and the fear that must’ve run through her eyes just before the final kill, wishing maybe that she had eaten that extra biscuit that morning or smelled that extra behind at the park. Because after all, what’s life, if you haven’t lived a little.