Desperate Hangovers Call For Desperate Measures

Pretty sure no one in Chile’s ever pulled this move before…

Time To Read: 10 mins | May 19, 2017

It all started with a poker game.

I’d lost about 20,000 the night before; that amount sounds cooler in Chilean pesos, but really it’s just like $30. A Mexican guy completely played me with a clever bit of acting on the first hand and I never recovered. He then spent entire next day talking shit, egging our same group of four to play again that night.

I was hesitant. In the morning I’d be starting 26 straight hours of travel to reach LA, and if the first game was any indication, playing cards against a crafty Mexican, a curly-haired Dutch guy and an unintelligible Welshman would end with far too many shots of cheap tequila.

But of course I played again, and I was absolutely correct about the liquor intake. This time though, the shots were celebratory: I’d taken about 70,000 pesos off the group and mercilessly rubbed salt in their wounds for hours.


I’m not brilliant at poker by any stretch, but even a dropped baby could have won with the cards I was being dealt.

Probably due to my big mouth, one of the guys insisted on paying me with a bag of coins. All travelers you meet in Chile will have one of these. Since there are no bills smaller than 1000 pesos, yet the prices for store-bought items are maddeningly specific (a loaf of bread may cost 1342p), every cash transaction results in the buyer receiving a fistful of coins in change. It’s rather comical when you’re handed a dozen coins at the grocery store after buying just $3 worth of food.

You see the locals making purchases out of their purses often, using huge piles of coins to pay for small amounts of goods. But the practice is so odd to foreigners that, in my experience, no one ever uses them, and they instead end up with grocery bags full of coins that weigh the same as a Smart Car. This Dutch bastard, then, had cleverly come up with a way to use his change: as revenge.

There was a lot of pressure to play another game – I believe the Welshman’s slurred quote was “pull up, you fucking pussy” – but it was midnight and I hadn’t packed, so I very responsibly left while literally waving their money in their faces.

When I made it back to my apartment, I surveyed the disaster area that was my bag and decided to ignore it. My head was spinning from the last half dozen shots of tequila – in hindsight, skipping dinner had been a mistake – and trying to organize my entire life seemed equitable to the very few times I tried yoga: ill-advised, exhausting, and eventually infuriating.

So instead of doing the job I’d left the poker game for, I climbed into bed with an unfinished bottle of rum (I couldn’t take it on my flight, and Green Peace says waste is bad), tucked myself in, and started watching Cinderella.

I am the coolest MF on Earth.

I passed out before the movie ended – I assume the stepmother lost again? – but not before finishing the rum. Which means, just a few hours later, I managed to sleep straight through my phone alarm for a full forty-five minutes

I’d originally allocated enough time to take a shower, pack my bag, and grab snacks before catching the bus to Santiago. But that was before the tequila and rum happened. Now I had just fifteen minutes to reach the station, about a quarter of a mile away, and my bag looked as if someone had blown a stick of dynamite inside.


That morning in Pucon, a Guinness World Record was set for the Fastest Packing Job in Human History.

I shoved every single scrap of clothing I own into my bag and probably destroyed the zipper sealing it shut. Electronics weren’t so much packed as they were thrown into place. I didn’t have to bother dressing since I fell asleep in last night’s clothes. And on top of how crammed my two packs usually are, I now had to find space for a softball-sized bag of coins. Fucking Dutch.

At some point during this whirlwind, it occurred to me that I wasn’t hungover. Considering the amount of liquor I’d shoved in my face hole the night before, the only explanation was that I was still intoxicated. The worst of this morning, then, was still to come.

Thanks to my spazmatic packing, I actually got everything crammed into bags with two minutes to spare. I considered trying to poo quickly, but given my atrocious diet of the past 24 hours, decided that it was too risky for the timeframe.

I left the apartment keys… shit, I legitimately don’t remember. Somewhere. I left the keys somewhere and took two steps outside and discovered that it was raining.

The entire week I spent in Pucon had been beautiful, but during my disheveled stinky sprint to the bus station, it decided to rain. And not some casual sprinkle; this was as if every angel in heaven got together and decided to piss on this particular Chilean town all at once. It was a torrent, falling straight down in drops larger than Shrek’s head.

I don’t have waterproof clothing. This has been a problem before, but of course I’ve not remedied the situation, so all I could do was throw a cotton hoody over my head and power walk several hundred yards through a thunderstorm. I swear it started coming down heavier the closer I got to the station.

My bus driver tapped his watch at me when I walked up. I shattered my skull on the top door jam as I boarded, found my seat, immediately reclined and curled up in the fetal position.

Let me paint this picture for you: I am soaking wet. I couldn’t shower, so I smell like an overused port-a-potty. I’m in the same clothes I wore last night, and given how long this travel day will be, won’t be able to change for at least another 24 hours. There’s a 90% chance I forgot something back at the apartment. My hair is everywhere. I’ve not poo’d.

And then, like a freight train from hell, the hangover arrived.

There’s a popular line from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where he describes the effect of drinking a particular cocktail as, “having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.” This was like that, without the lemon.

I did manage to sleep for a bit, but just a quarter of the way through an 11-hour ride, I woke up still feeling like hot death. Now these direct buses don’t stop often, and when they do, it’s not long enough to jump off and go shopping. Which is why I’d planned to stop at a store before arriving at the station. But then poker and tequila and rum and Cinderella happened.

On the off chance I had some sort of fluid leftover in my backpack, I unzipped and checked. There were exactly two consumable objects inside that I’d totally forgotten about: a bag of knock-off Chilean M&Ms, and a water bottle – full of rum.


364 days of the year, this discovery would leave me overjoyed. Today was the 365th.

I had eight more hours on that bus. My head felt like baboons were having a dance off inside, and my mouth was as moist as freeze-dried sand paper. I seriously considered death as a favorable alternative.

But just as I was deciding how best to off myself, the bus steward came by and gave us all a complimentary snack pack, and inside that miserable shrink-wrapped baggy was a tiny juice box.

No porn star has ever sucked a penis as enthusiastically as I sucked on that juice box straw. I drained my 6 ounces in under three seconds and, for a full minute afterwards, felt like life was worth living once again.

But one cheap cardboard drink couldn’t undo the damage of mixing rum and tequila en mass, so I was aching again in no time. I’d done this bus ride before; the attendant only comes by once. He wasn’t going to help me.

I looked across the aisle. A half-asleep man leaning against the window hadn’t even bothered with his snack. And behind him, another young guy had not touched his juice because he’d brought along a water bottle, like an adult.

This gave me an idea.

I tossed my rum bottle out of the way and dug deep into my pack until I found the plastic bag full of coins. Then I leaned over, tapped the trying-to-sleep man on the shoulder, and with my dry mouth and broken AF Spanish asked, “Puedo compra su jugo?” (I can buy your juice?)

I’m fairly certain I’m the first person in the history of Chilean bus travel to try and purchase a complimentary juice box off another passenger. His face confirmed how ridiculous this was.

The man, looking more than a little startled, handed me the box. In exchange, I blindly grabbed a fistful of coins and put them in his hand. It felt like I was handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. I genuinely don’t know how much money I gave him.

Then I went to the teenager behind him, who’d watched this entire scene unfold and was regarding me as if I’d just escaped a straight jacket. I repeated my offer. He, now laughing, accepted and received his arbitrary handful of money.

I did this to the entire bus, whomever hadn’t yet drank their juice box. I got six boxes out of it and, after doing some rough math afterward, paid about $15 for them all. That’s the same as a decent bottle of wine or a fifth of Jack, and all I got was 6 shitty Hi-Cs.

On the flip side, I was alive and, like that Dutch bastard, had finally found a use for my coin purse.


photo: sadly, no cats are actually involved in this story. although that infected eye does roughly approximate how i felt while all this was taking place. boca del toro, panama

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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