Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Choose to ruin your day, or not


     Of all the things to go wrong on a trip, dropping a camera is high up on the list of non-life threatening disasters. I observed how one gentleman handled the situation, and his attitude was commendable.
     If we could literally pick up the pieces and move on when the tiny annoyances poke at us, how much better off we would become as human beings. As the saying goes, “there are bigger fish to fry” - like solving the major issues in the world.
     This particular man was in his eighties and very much in command of his life – calm and composed, and in fact, his wife and him were delightful travel companions. They absorbed experiences with fresh eyes and ears, and they engaged in conversation together like two best friends –they’d been married for over 60 years.
     When I heard what had happened to the camera, I remarked to the husband that I was sorry. Oh, I know. That’s such a lame remark to make to someone who just lost his entire collection of photos. I should have done better than that in the empathy department.
     However, he smiled back at me with a few words I will never forget: “It’s not the worst thing in the world. We have our memories.”
     Crisis averted. The day saved. No whining. No complaining and making everyone within 100 feet miserable for being random inhabitants of the same space on the planet.

     Does that graceful trait of not letting things get the best of you come with age? It is comforting though, to be in the presence of someone serene and wise, and it encouraged me to strive for improvement. I thought of how fortunate his grown children and grandchildren must be to have him as a role model.
     Certainly, as you get older you measure the true value of life in much more important terms – good health, stability and precious connections with others. Those are more priceless than all the rubies in the world.
     Those fortunate folks of any age who have an inner strength equipping them with coping mechanisms are better off when it comes to the “glass half full or empty” theory. I’ll leave that to psychologists to explain, though, and not pretend playing one as a columnist.
     Suppose it rains for two straight days on your trip and the show must go on. Talk about a busload of people swinging one way or the other in their outlook on a dreary morning.

     One couple from the Philadelphia suburbs donned their matching blue rain gear, pasted grins on their faces, and made the best of “a bad hair day.” Every single time I talked with them, the conversation was about the sights in front of us, and not how damp their feet were from walking around like ducks. They had dressed for the occasion, and knew that by evening they would be dried out by the hotel lobby’s fireplace sipping a local beer or wine no worse for that matter.
     On the other hand, there were others I had to stay clear of or I would dampen my spirits by being in their company too long. They are the folks that nothing is ever right anyhow. It makes no difference if it is cloudy or sunny outside.
     All it takes is a rainy day to get them into an even grumpier mood, and it stays with them like a creeping spider attaching itself to the shower wall. If they could only hear a tape-recording of what they sound like to others, would that jolt them into an upright position?
     One solo traveler complained that no one had told her that there might be a rainy day on the trip, and she had not brought the right clothes. She immediately bought an umbrella, and still, she couldn’t get it out of her mind. Rather than getting too wet, she sat on the bus alone part of the time and didn’t partake in much. Talking with her, or should I say, listening to her three hours later, and it was as if a broken record was repeating itself.

     Once on the trip the bus was held up at a border crossing between two small countries at passport control for almost two hours. The bus engine had to be turned off. Passengers couldn’t leave the bus. We waited. And waited. Fortunately, the tour guide had taken those couple hours into account in planning out the day, and we wouldn’t be missing anything. It was a tedious normal thing that people living in that region of the world put up with on a regular basis.
     Since I was sitting behind the eighty-year old couple, they began telling me about growing up and meeting in high school on Long Island. We got so wrapped up in the moment that the time flew by. A woman across the aisle joined in when she overheard that the three of us were originally from Long Island, her home, too.
     The couple from the Philadelphia suburbs spent the time quietly planning their next major trip together. The wife was putting notes into her journal for reference.
     The solo traveler checked her watch repeatedly and tapped her foot. I reminded myself not to get seated next to her at dinner if I could help it.
     As for where I traveled and what sights linger in my mind, check out a special blog I created for the trip:
Tour Dubrovnik and Beyond with Kay