What Happens in the Colonies …

May 20th, 2009  |  Published in etc

So, I hop on the tram at Mandalay Bay yesterday afternoon, and there are two elderly gentlemen already sitting on the bench. That’s sort of odd, because Mandalay Bay is one end of a three-hotel run, with Excalibur on the other end and the Luxor in the middle.

One of the old men looks sort of like a red-nosed John Gielgud, and one of them looks like Hank Hill’s dad, Cotton.

I sit down next to Cotton, who elbows me and says “where you from?” [Note: his diction is pretty messed up, so just slur everything he says and imagine that it’s all gravelly, too.]

I tell him “Oregon” and he grunts then relays that to his friend, who beams at me over his red nose.




“Yeah … EEEEN-GLIN!”

Just then a few more people step into the tram car. Two couples. I can tell they’re from Texas because the men have badges that announce their affiliation with some fertilizer and feed store in a town in Texas.

“Cotton” perks up.

“‘ello ladies! ‘ello ladies! ‘ELLO LADIES!”

One of the women in the group that’s joined us in the car smiles a tight little smile. The other three in her group look at each other uncomfortably.


“Cotton” wants to hold her attention, so he starts waving his arms.


The smiling woman’s smile goes away and she purses her lips. The men in her group are paralyzed, with little smiles on their faces that show they’re unsure how to proceed. Should they tell him to stop? The doors have closed, so they’re trapped. Should they just ignore him? But one of the women is still engaging, even if silently.

Cotton’s friend is laughing gently to himself, periodically batting at Cotton’s arm as if trying to get him to stop, but only half-heartedly.

Cotton begins to rib me to punctuate his “‘ello ladies!”

“‘ey! ‘ey!” he grunts, then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a piece of white paper that’s been folded over a number of times. As he begins to unfold it, I can see it’s been written on with a black marker.

“Lookit! Lookit!” he says, and with a few folds left in the paper he begins to fit it onto the top of his head, like a hat. Since I’m sitting next to him, and the lettering is pointed at the Texans on the other side of the tram car, I can’t read it. The woman who’s been telegraphing her unhappiness with the exchange, however, visibly stiffens and her look grows cold. She’s furious.

“That’s NOT funny,” she says. “That’s NOT funny AT ALL.”

Cotton is laughing and pointing at his head and still saying “Lookit! Lookit! ‘ey ladies! Lookit!”

“What does your hat say?” I ask him.

He turns to face me and I can finally read the lettering:


The tram stops and Cotton’s friend grabs him by the elbow and hoists him up. Cotton bids farewell to his audience.

“G’bye, ladies! G’bye ladies! Eh? Eh? G’bye ladies!”

The angry Texan woman looks at the people left in the car, briefly making eye contact with me.

“Really,” I say to her, “haven’t we’ve all wanted to do that at one point or another?”

She looks away, shaking her head.

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