Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The peril of travels

Interesting thing about maps and travel guides is that once you have them, you can take them with you in a small handbag, satchel, pocket or whatever device you find reasonable for your comfort and amount of gear that you feel like schlepping with you. I employ both modes of determining where and what I am going to be viewing, in fact, I have added a couple of items to that repertoire... a Garmin Zumo motorcycle GPS and my IPhone in case I can't reconcile the GPS. 

I can understand that there is a fine line between having too much information and too little. I mean, what can you REALLY determine from a map? You can tell where you are. Where you might want to go to. You can use it to navigate between and betwixt places. You can also use it to get yourself "un-lost" (although, being lost is sometimes the entire point) and to determine a good itinerary (perhaps). 

What I saw tonight went far beyond ANY scenario that I could have EVER anticipated, outside of living in a war zone, that is.

As I entered the bar/restaurant of my hotel in Kyoto, I noticed a couple with a glass of wine in front of each of them, a map, three travel guides, two pencils and a healthy dose of "don't bother us, we're busy" written all over their auras. Now, don't get me wrong. I am highly in support of maps and guides, as I said above, but there was something about this couple that was out of sorts. Perhaps it was the lack of conversation and the determination shown in the male's posture. Perhaps it was that the man never once looked up past the map that we was committing to memory and the guide book that he was comparing to the map.

For a while, I studied the two of them and came to the determination that the woman must love him quite a bit to put up with this behavior and that she has taken the backseat to the relationship and is okay with that. As the minutes rolled by... which turned into almost an hour, I came to view it in a much different way. Instead of being in the back seat, she showed (when she pulled out the 3M Post-It flags and started to highlight the map) that she was firmly entrenched in the front of the car with her husband. This truly was a match made in heaven. Two people that needed a plan for everything, a list for each hour of the day and an addendum to any scenario that might alter those plans. As much as I would like to laud these people and give them props for ensuring that they "see it all", I still have to mock them within an inch of their lives for subjecting me to have to watch this... this... uh, crap! I can't even think of a polite adjective to throw in there to describe the disdain I have for this type of planning. Really! Post-It flags on the hotel tourist map? Who brings their office supplies on vacation?

When I worked, as a contractor, for the US Army, we would have planning sessions called "Rock Drills" that sometimes involved models (Planes, trucks, large scale replicas of terrain/buildings). I understand planning. I truly do! The draconian effort  involved was extraordinary and was only exacerbated by the complete absence of conversation between the two people. Perhaps that is why I found it so strange.

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