We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

~ Dalai Lama ~

Touch Nothing as You Travel

January 28th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 4 mins, 42 secs

Travelling is always guaranteed to teach you a thing or two.

When you travel, you find things out. Not only do you discover things aren’t quite the same as back home. You also discover new skills.

I was reminded of that when I tried putting my seat back on one of those budget buses from New York City to Washington DC.

I felt around, finding a round knob on the side of the seat.

Pushing hard, I pulled it, and then tried sliding it, before attempting to twist it round with force.

All the while Ruth kept staring  at me with that look that says “I can’t believe this. What on earth are you doing?”

The fact that I was in an outstretched brace position, trying to physically push the seat back  with my feet pressing against the panel in front, with my shoulders back and gritting my teeth must have given the game away. Either that or me declaring, “Yeah baby! That’s it. Come on. Come on. You can do it.”

That’s when I noticed half the bus staring at me.

At that critical moment  the knob inexplicably released and 3 G’s of pushing force suddenly flung my seat back down onto the lap of the guy behind me.

But it all worked out fine though. He’s not pressing charges. Besides, aside from shock, he wasn’t injured too much.

For my efforts, I had nearly as much thrill trying to get the seat upright again (Sitting on the lap of that same guy, pressing my feet against the rear of my seat back certainly gave me a chance to make a new friend. Two minutes of earnest pushing and a hi-five later and I have to say we were the dream team.). It just proves you really do meet more people when you travel by bus.

Travelling – I mean real travelling – isn’t like it is in the movies. At least, it never is when I travel.

Whist we journeyed around the States I found funny little things like control knobs a little challenging. Stuff just kept on falling off, or apart in two,  three, or four pieces. Blinds, curtain rods, lampshades and tapwear. Alles Kaput!

Critics claim the US is falling apart. Well I can tell you from first hand experience, if a country is to be judged by its nobs and fittings, then it’s time things got fixed.

Seems everywhere we travelled there was a fitting just waiting to fall.  It was almost a tick the box thing when you got to your next accommodation:

1. Towel rail collapsed? Check.

2. Curtain rung fallen on your head? Yep (twice).

3. Upright freezer draws falls apart on opening freezer door? You got it.

When the first few handles began falling off and bathroom fittings started disintegrating, I thought it was just me. You know, a kind of jinxed Midas touch.

But it’s clear things aren’t what they should be. I mean, it’s not like I climb onto the towel rails to brush my teeth. Or rugby tackle the curtains when nobody is looking. It’s just that all this stuff is hanging on by an overstretched thread.

Walk into rooms like this and the faintest movement of air you fan is liable to make whole wall units collapse. Stroll on through to the bedroom and quietly sit on the bed and the headboard topples down on you. Cradling your neck, you stagger into the bathroom where there’s a hardware store of springs and fittings all ready to go ping and plunk. Going to the sink is asking for it. It’s like there’s a disassembling force just waiting for you. “Go ahead. Turn on the tap. We dare you.”

That’s the trouble when I’m travelling: I do.

Seconds later, when I’m desperately trying to put the handle back on as the water is spurting right at me, I reach for a towel. Of course, this causes the towel rail to clatter down onto my leg giving me a nasty souvenir gash. That’s when I have to use willpower to stop from wondering,  “Is it really me?”

Backtracking through events on our  trip to the US, I’ve come up with a range of suggestions to help prevent accommodation mishaps when next we or maybe even you plan on travelling.

Step 1

Instead of walking into a new place, try tiptoe-ing in, so as not to churn up the air.

Move slowly, and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y. Done as a family it can be a great bonding experience.

Step 2

Do not sit on the bed. Merely look softly at the covers and gently smile. Comments should be made in hushed voices, lest the flimsy prints on the walls with brick heavy frames fall off their drawing pin mounts.

When bedtime does come, I suggest crouching at the foot of the bed and – in one smooth action – sliding quietly on your stomach until your head reaches the pillow (try practising this before you travel). Whatever you do, do not plump up the pillow. One plump too many and you better know she’s gonna blow. Mind you, a mouthful of kapok and feathers might reduce snoring volume.

Step 3

When entering any bathroom be aware it’s ready to fall apart the moment you try using it. Avoid using the taps. Flush only if necessary but locate the plunger first.

Enjoy looking at yourself in the mirror. Providing you don’t touch it, this is as good as it gets.

Step 4

If there’s a kitchen, be prepared to accept it’s role is cosmetic. But if you must use the refrigerator try opening slowly. Preferably  without grasping the handle.

Put nothing heavier than your set of keys on the inside shelves and you should be fine. I mention keys because some people – not me – put them in the refrigerator to remember them. This of course causes problems if you are out and about unless you carry your own portable refrigerator to store them in, which I’ve found is way too complicated.

Avoid opening the freezer. Just don’t even look at what is in there. Please. I beg of you.

Step 5

Doors are a necessary evil but try not to touch the handles or knobs. That’s tricky isn’t it? You have to touch them sometimes. But where you can, try slipping through doorways with others by getting as close as possible behind them and squeezing through. You’ll get better at this with practice so I recommend rehearsing (you can try walking diagonally through closing doors with your knees bent and your arms reaching toward the hips of someone immediately in front). Not only do you get to meet more people this way but it’s definitely  breaks the ice.

As awkward to explain to others as it is, just remember, door handles will fall off and you need to know: if you touched it last, it’s your fault.

Above all, relax and enjoy your stay. At least that’s what they tell you.

Sigh! If only people told the truth.



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