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"We expect ourselves to behave like the fully functioning adults we know ourselves to be …"

The Muse and I have traveled plenty. We're not genuine World-class travelers, but we've managed to make our way anyway. Our relationship began during a period of rather intense business travel, which we always managed, in the spirit of any fresh relationship, to make into net pleasurable excursions. A week in Winston-Salem rivaled a week in Rome, for we were younger then and so deeply in love. We learned our ropes, our RulesOfTheRoad, under perhaps the most positive conditions. We learned not to take much of anything that happens very personally, for grudgy effects could sour an otherwise delightful experience. Stuff happens, inconveniences conspire, it's nothing more than their nature, but we never agreed to become pawns to their conniving games and always managed to have a vote in every outcome. We noticed early on that some people seem to travel for the pure aggravation it provides in their lives. Listening to their travel stories seemed like listening to a particularly vengeful prosecutor talking himself into filing a viscous bill of particulars. Flights arrived late. Hotel reservations lost. Dinners uneatable. Of course these minor distractions happen to everyone who deigns to move beyond the secure confines of home, but none of them amount to the stuff anyone should aspire to make into a Federal case. We early on decided that these amounted to nothing much more than plot twists and need not ever very deeply influence the quality of any outcome. So we arrived hours later than planned? We call this sort of occurrence a So What?.

We do have a few rather hard and fast rules which we intend to help ensure domestic tranquility.
First, we ascribe to the principle that if you brought it, you get to schlepp it. Neither of us believe that the age of chivalry died, but we acknowledge the practical limits both of us individually possess. I'd like to carry your bag up that surprise staircase, and I could, once or twice, but the reality of this world seems to insist that any ingress or egress features a few busted escalators and as sorry as I might feel about this eventually, I'm better off being powerless to compensate for the shortcomings of the local transit authority. You decided that you needed to bring a three-ton traveling library with you, you schlepp yer own shit, baby. This principle works both ways. The Muse doesn't schlepp my shit and I do not schlepp hers. I might deign to heft her carryon into the overhead, and even fetch the damned thing back down, but should we (when we) encounter that fourth busted escalator, she's responsible for figuring out how to cope with that. I've got my load and she's got hers. No animosity or wounded feelings allowed. Schlepp yer own shit.

Second, The Muse usually agrees to take the middle seat. She's a mite smaller than I am and my lanky legs really do need more space than her short legs do. I cede much of the shared armrest to her, and always forfeit the window seat if that's the choice, but I sit on the aisle. She's free to upgrade if she has the ability to, and I humbly take a seat in the back. This has become mere convention. Today, I drew a window seat and she a middle in a different row. We gave no thought to trying to negotiate away her middle seat, but to offer a free window to someone stuck without a view in trade for the adjoining aisle seat. We easily found an agreeable fellow passenger and away we went. We strongly prefer to fly next to each other. The devil who agrees to trade so we can accomplish this never suspects our real reason. I'm a ninny in the air and need the reassuring hand on my knee when the turbulence turns terrifying. Any hint of turbulence turns terrifying for me.

Third, the Muse makes the reservations. I so easily get lost and confused by online sites, that I make a severely unreliable reservation clerk. She's a remarkable one, finding deals when no deals exist and eking out non-existent perks. My responsibility lies on the grateful appreciation side of the equation. Whatever shithole we might end up in, I find the silver lining and gush appreciation. The room might not have much of a view, but it tends to do for the purposes for which it was intended. In my eyes, the glaring shortcomings become unexpected positive attributes. That place south of Midtown Manhattan where the desk clerk stood inside a cage and the hallways seemed stained with more than the simple patina of age seemed more than the shooting gallery it most certainly still was. Its location could not have been more perfect. To me, it might as well have been The Ritz.

Fourth, I have the nose. When we're stumped about where to eat, The Muse calls on my nearly infallible nose to sniff out a decent place. I'm not prone to bragging overmuch, but I do carry this gift. Sure, the result might turn out to be a Georgian restaurant on the verges of old town, certainly primarily a mob cash laundering operation, but the food's interesting, decent, and relatively cheap. It beat the alternative, which was to attempt to dine in a derivative tourist haunt where every dish looks like the cover photo on a Stouffer's frozen dinner package and the check induces a small stroke. We could not be seen in that mob-run place, which might have been the whole purpose of eating there in the first place.

Fifth, we do not study overmuch on the places we visit before we visit them, other than to rather passively inquire about how to exit the arrival terminal, but often not even that. We believe in dropping ourselves into strange places , perhaps to see what we'll do with the fresh mystery. No, we don't speak the language, but we're both reasonably intuitive and usually able to figure out what we should do. Once imbedded in the new situation, our curiosity peaks and we stumble upon marvelous, off-the-beaten-path places to see. We're not so much sightseers as stumble into-ers. Once in Paris, The Muse wondered after gardens there. We found a massive one, figured out how to get there on the Metro, and spent a very memorable morning just strolling around in lieu of doing the Louvre. We've never yet made it to the Louvre, and probably never will, but we can stroll around a few of the less noteworthy and more typical neighborhoods of Paris without resorting to a map, places where real people carry on their normal but nonetheless interesting lives rather than places where tourists mug for selfies while holding up the free flow of humanity.

I think Taking Nothing Too Awfully Seriously encapsulates the fundamental RulesOfTheRoad for The Muse and I. We're not really trying to finish off any bucket list. We're adventuring, and any decent adventuring should surprise and attempt to undermine delight. We're determined not to let Old Man Trouble sour our experience. So we miss a meal or two. So the line stretches to Christmas. We say that it's all part of the deeper deal, plot twists in a perfectly intended story. Synchronicity fills in most of the few hollow spots and just imagine the stories we can tell. We expect ourselves to behave like the fully functioning adults we know ourselves to be, and other than me being an absolute ninny when the inevitable turbulence kicks in, we largely live up to our meager expectations for each other, each of us shlepping our own damned shit.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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