There are two kinds of folks on journeys—my opinion. Travelers, and Tourists. By my definition, if you’ve flown a thousand miles to spend three days somewhere, you are a tourist. Nothing wrong with that. I am myself a tourist now, but used to travel in my youth. As tourist, I am here to see the sights, the monuments and castles. Subway bound —the tube, with wives and cameras, sometimes kids.
The travelers are mostly single, often younger, with no jobs, perhaps between jobs, less well healed than tourists, but the trip is less expensive. There is time to learn one’s way around, the price of things, and what’s worth having. Fewer baths, and Spartan beds—long rides on shaky buses. Learning to relax amidst the unfamiliar.
Lots of things are unfamiliar to me in this digital, technology—like cell phones. Mine defies me, always wanting updates or a code a I can’t remember. Others use them without thought. Facebooking madly. “We are here now.” There are photos, maps. Friends know exactly where we are. There was a time when no one knew where in the world I was. Now I prefer somebody does—just in case. Survivors get more cautious as we age.
I have digressed. Where am I? Tourist, London, with my wife. My birthday—eighty years.
The trip begins. A three hour ride. Wife’s driving with some kind of cell phone app. A woman’s voice instructs us, “In 300 meters, turn right onto Route 53.” Amazing. It’s unreal. We never miss a turn and it’s a complicated drive. No problem. We have reservations, pre-paid parking fee for days we’d be away, and airline tickets —Ryan Airlines—gets you there no frills, far less expensive. All this done on Internet and cell phone. Wife made all of these arrangements. She has been a long time traveler, and still good at it. She’s Swedish, can’t remember if I’ve told you.
We sleep over at the hotel airport. Nice rooms and free breakfast opens 4 a.m. Airport in walking distance, then the wait. About two hours and then another in line waiting to get passports checked. Wife says to slide my passport through the slot along with Swedish ID card. Confusion. Why am I traveling with a U.S. passport? A long discussion begins. I had not thought to bring my percent resident card—ten minute hassle. Those in line behind us are unhappy. I have become one of the people I have cursed. “What the hell is wrong with that guy? What’s his problem?” At last a superior is consulted and we are let through to wait in another line, the last before getting on a plane with less legroom than planes with no leg room and non-reclining seats. We’re thirty hours into the trip and still not there yet.