Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Word About My Fellow Guests

There are 32 people on this tour, most of them married couples, most of them older than me. (There was one pair of travellers who may have been gay and may have been my age, but I didn’t think either question was any of my damn business. Of course, depending on where they live, being married and being gay aren’t mutually exclusive propositions, but I didn’t see wedding rings on these guys, so that wasn’t likely the case.)

In any event, most were older couples. When I went to check in with the tour director, I said, “Guess who I am,” figuring I was the only one who booked solo (although I was travelling with my parents). Tour director said that there were actually several people travelling solo on this trip. Including, she said pointedly, several men.

Now, I’m not really sure if she thought I was on this tour to get all hooked up, but I should note at this point that what she did not know (and what we did not figure out for several days) is that two of the men travelling solo were actually priests. (One Roman Catholic; one Episcopal.) They didn’t know it either – we were sitting together at a long table for lunch, and after the Episcopal priest told us what he did for a living, my mother said, “You’ll never guess who you’re sitting next to.” They were both pretty nice guys and it was actually helpful having them around on the trip – they were good with the Latin inscriptions. :)

I’d contemplated arranging dinner with the Roman Catholic priest and the probably-gay couple, to just watch the sparks fly. Because I’m all playfully difficult like that. We weren’t able to arrange it and, actually, if we’d ever managed it, I doubt there would have been any sparks. The Roman Catholic priest (“George,” to most of us, although I noticed a couple of Catholics did call him “Father George”) was a pretty laid back guy, not preachy at all, and not really what you’d call “on duty.” I expect he would have been “live and let live” about any sort of social issue.

Indeed, most of us on the trip were (wisely) being “live and let live” about pretty much everything. I mean, we’re nearing the election, and most of us went out of our way to avoid political discussions or arguments. There was the occasional exception. This was a pretty pricey trip and, perhaps because of it, some folks assumed we were all one-percenters and therefore voting for Romney – but this wasn’t the case. (We know that the guy whom Marzipan Lady said looked like Romney was actually an Obama supporter. He was not at all happy with the comparison.) Despite my being “playfully difficult” when it came to setting up dinner tables, I was actually on my best non-controversial behavior. When we were at breakfast with a nice lady who said she was “voting with Israel” (which is code for both “I’m Jewish” and “I’m voting for Romney”) and couldn’t understand people (Jewish people, I assume) who weren’t voting the same way, I was sorely tempted to say “I’m voting with the gay community” and go off on something about how, as a Jewish person, I feel it’s my duty to be extra vigilant in the fight for equal rights for all oppressed groups, (or say that I’m voting with women and can’t understand why any female would vote for Romney) but I figured it’d be a conversation killer and I wouldn’t change anyone’s mind anyway, so I let it go. And seethed a bit. Quietly. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not actually saying that all people of any particular demographic group ought to vote for Obama. I think everyone’s got different priorities and different perspectives and a reasonable argument could be made for voting for either guy. What annoyed the crap out of me was that this woman was so absolutely certain that she was voting for the right guy she actually could not understand how anyone else would vote the other way. Way to encourage rational discussion, lady. People like you are what’s wrong with political discourse in this country.

I have to say that on this trip, I came to understand why the teams on “Amazing Race” come up with nicknames for the other teams, rather than just calling them by their names. There was a couple on this trip who most of us referred to as “New Jersey,” twins from Minnesota we called “the sisters” (why nobody came up with “Minnesota twins” until our final dinner, I’ll never know), the priests, and so forth.

Interesting note: there was a doctor in our group. This was not, however, the person who signed up for the trip – and therefore appared in the list of guests – with the title “Dr.” (The doctor went with a straight up “Ms.”) The “Dr.” had a Ph.D., so was entitled, but I thought it really curious that that’s how he identified, and that the actual doctor chose not to. (Also, neither of the priests went with “Fr.”) Still, when a woman wasn’t feeling well, we realized we had a pharmacist, a doctor, and two priests among our group, so she was covered pretty much how bad she got.

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