By BERNIE BELLAN
“Call me Ishmael” – or don’t. I’ve always wanted to use those words at the beginning of a story. In this case the story centres around my lovely wife, Meachelle who, I believe is the modern day embodiment of Captain Ahab.
Captain Ahab, as you probably already know, had an obsession with finding and killing the great white whale. In my wife’s case – it has been hunting and buying the great white bathing suit.
This obsession of hers has carried on for years. She is as relentless in the pursuit as any dogged hunter would be in corralling his or her prey. No matter the effort required – when we are on holidays anywhere warm, the hunt begins anew.
I’m not quite sure when Captain Meachelle’s pursuit of the great white bathing suit began. All that I know is that one time, many years ago, in some exotic clime (I think it was Playa de Carmen) – at the end of yet another day of going in and out of stores without ever buying anything, my wife had her eureka moment.
It was in a Zingara store, as I recall, where Meachelle found not one, but amazingly, two bathing suits which she actually liked, and which fit. What was even more amazing (for anyone who knows me) is that I agreed to buy those two suits for her.
Meachelle does have a great figure (I won’t dare say for a woman her age), and for the longest time those bathing suits were put to great use.
But, as anyone who has ever bought a white bathing suit would know – or should have known even before they bought a bathing suit in that colour, white isn’t the easiest colour to keep clean – especially when you’re also wearing one while eating taco chips with salsa.
So it was though that when lovely Meachelle and I made our way to Nuevo Vallarta two weeks ago, I knew the long delayed hunt would be resumed. No store would be safe from my wife’s cruel gaze as she eyed anything in any shop window that looked the least like a bathing suit.
Puerto Vallarta is a big city – over 300,000 native inhabitants, and when you count the tourists, it must grow to well over 400,000 at this time of year. You would think then that the odds of finding a white bathing suit would be very good.
I don’t have to tell you that would be wrong (also a spoiler for this story). Up and down the streets of the older part of Puerto Vallarta shopping district Meachelle and I wandered. And she’s serious when she’s on the hunt. Okay – we would stop for an occasional refreshment (she’s also got a weakness for ice cream, while I, on the other hand, am totally disciplined).
How many times was Meachelle told that there is no demand for white bathing suits? I don’t know, but when I went on Tripadvisor to try and find as many highly recommended bathing suit shops as I could find and I would phone each shop mentioned, my queries were often met with total disdain. One call I made turned out to be to a bathing suit store that catered exclusively to men. Puerto Vallarta has quite a large gay zone, by the way. I didn’t ask them whether they had white bathing suits but when we happened to come across that very store during our hunt one day, I was quite impressed with the falsies that you could buy for a man’s bathing suit. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as George Castanza and Jerry Seinfeld famously remarked during one episode of “Seinfeld”.)
One day someone else who was staying at our “casa” persuaded Meachelle to go shopping with her. This woman had been coming to Puerto Vallarta for years and she suggested that she would know where to take Meachelle.
Later that day, when Meachelle returned from her expedition, she said she had a surprise for me: a bathing suit – but not a white bathing suit. I asked her whether she was now satisfied, but just like Captain Ahab, even though others might have been prepared to give up the hunt once a reasonable number of whales had been caught, Meachelle was not deterred one bit from picking up once more on her pursuit.
She even chanced upon a white bathing suit in a Walmart that almost met her standards. It was a one-piece (which is what she was looking for) and it was the right style – but it wasn’t quite what she wanted and well, you know: Walmart? What kind of quality could it be? (I’m really just kidding about that. If truth be told Meachelle is one of the most parsimonious shoppers you’ll ever meet. She just has amazing taste – except, I guess, in choosing husbands.)
Then, on our last day in downtown Puerto Vallarta, in a store that didn’t even specialize in bathing suits – there it was: her quarry at last! One problem: it was size XL.
“You can shrink it,” I suggested to Meachelle. I should also explain that Meachelle speaks a passable Spanish, so when she started to cross-examine the poor store clerk as to whether there couldn’t possibly be a smaller size somewhere else in the store, the dialogue got pretty heated.
There were other bathing suits that a lesser hunter than my wife would have been willing to acquire – and perhaps bleach them. (That’s something I would at least try. Hey, for $10 – which is what some of those suits cost, what would you have to lose?)
But oh no, sad to say - this hunt ended in frustration. I had many other suggestions for my wife – “Perhaps buy a used bathing suit on ebay,” I said.
Or how about ordering from China? There isn’t anything you can’t buy online from China – at least if you don’t mind waiting three months for it to arrive.
Could it also be, I wondered, that the white bathing suit is such a rare species nowadays that they’re all being kept under lock and key in some bathing suit preserve, and only the fabulously wealthy are allowed to hunt – and capture them.
There is no happy ending to this story, I have to admit – except that Meachelle enjoyed the hunt so much she’s made me promise to return to Puerto Vallarta next winter – this time for a much longer stay. I’ll have to make sure that our expedition next year will be much better stocked. We’ll need to draw quadrants on a detailed map of Puerto Vallarta so that we don’t explore the same territory twice. Perhaps we can get in touch with other hunters beforehand so that we can trade information about little known stores that may be harbouring white bathing suits.
Either way I just hope that Meachelle doesn’t meet the same fate as Captain Ahab and, if she ever were to finally close in on her quarry, find out that she has now outgrown her current size and wouldn’t be caught dead in a white bathing suit.