Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Whether Yea or Nay, Life Goes On

Later this month, I'll be embarking on a trip to Amsterdam, something you'll no doubt hear more about in upcoming posts. As I deal with small batches of issues (planes, hotels, inquiries, conversion charts, confirmations etc.) and coordinate them into my Mega Master List, I find my emotions wavering between those of That Woman who claims to have gypsy blood flowing through her veins, and That Other Woman who enjoys kicking back in her ergonomically correct lounge chair and watching TV.

It's been awhile since I've had to deal with airports; I’m sure I’ll be rusty. I mean, wouldn’t it be embarrassing to be the travel writer who gets busted for a bottle of water and a pocket knife? Sadly, I’ve been caught with both, although the latter was more embarrassing. The knife was a teensy one, cutesy purple, complete with a sweet little fold-up scissors and a toothpick -- an impulse buy at the checkout counter of a cheap boutique. The cashier handed me the receipt and some change and asked me if I'd like a bag. Nah, I told her as I dropped it into my purse and promptly forgot about. Until the TSA busted me. While they ransacked, I'd stood there thinking, "What on earth are they looking for in my old-lady handbag? Dangerous hairpins? Toothpicks? A suspicious bottle of wrinkle cream?"

Bye-bye cutesy purple knife. But I'm smarter now: I travel with a self-addressed bubble pack envelope in which I can mail me my overlooked contraband.

For this upcoming week-long trip, That Woman promised herself she would not check a bag. She would travel light. "I can do seven days with carry-ons," she said. "Careful planning. That's all it takes. Thoughtfulness. Coordination. Eating without dribbling. Sitting without wrinkling. Packing up after staying in five different hotels without forgetting something in the closet--a trick for which she's famous.

"Just take your basic black dress," a friend of mine said, "and a bunch of your swell accessories." That would be a great idea, if only I owned a basic black dress.

Shopping. That's what this will take.

But wait! "NO SHOPPING!" That Other Woman demanded. "After all, the financial sky is falling. Don't buy. Don't charge. Don't spend any unnecessary money. Tighten your belt. Call your bank. Talk to your broker. Check your credit cards. Watch CNN, MSNBC and C-SPAN until you are glazed over. Listen to the financial experts. Torment over your upcoming trip when things are in such a mess. Hope your congressmen vote for it. Hope they vote against it. Either way, should you end up looking bad for wishing they did whatever, no matter what, blame the other guys and gals. Nothing is truly your fault anymore. It's ALWAYS those ding-dong other obstinate, self-serving, valueless, up-tight folks."

(Pause. Catch breath.)

That Woman who claims to have gypsy blood in her veins just remembered one of the things she loves most about travel: when one is flitting about the globe, one neither has time nor one's ergonomically correct lounge chair in which to sit back and soak in the horrors of the day regarding The Vote, the spin doctors, the analysts, the positioning politicians and other worldly disasters. One can simply don one's noise reduction headset, stare out the airplane window and hum, "What a wonderful world!" With childlike enthusiasm, That Woman is anxious to explore a new land, chat with fresh people, drink in the beauty of the countryside during a half-day tour, float down a canal at night, embraced by colorful twinkling lights. "Imagine," she thinks with a content sigh, "walking the same streets as the likes of Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt. Imagine sensing the closeness of the life and the untold stories of Anne Frank. Visiting the outdoor flower market to buy yourself a modest bouquet to brighten your magnificent quiet evening as you gaze down on Le Coin Square from your hotel room window." She has reserved (and confirmed, twice) a room with such a view!

But That Other Woman likes to torment. She likes to fret about itineraries, cash machines and the value of the dollar. She stews about security lines, the fact her cell phone won't work "over there," and she wonders if her husband will remember how to answer her Skype-to-Skype call when she forgets the time difference and awakens him in the middle of the night. Yes, she's done that before too. That Other Woman has made every mistake possible during the course of her travels, including leaving her passport at a bank (thankfully it was retrieved), getting her wallet ripped off, and leaving her credit card in a taxi, never to be seen again.

(Pause. Breathe.)

For the good of her personal nature, and in order to keep the travel plans "unclogged," in a spirit of bipartisanship, both of these women need to walk across the aisle -- or at the very least meet in the middle. After all, even though it's an election year, neither can actually vote against herself.

Well, I guess That Woman or That Other Woman could try it. But in the end, that type of maneuver in which one ends up sinking oneself would degenerate into politics as usual, and this year we're all about change and no more of the same. No, that foul smelling and combative behavior, my Dear Traveling Laugh readers, is simply unacceptable.

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