So here I am sorting my stuff, packing my bag, and thinking about the use I have made of the last 10 days of my life.
I devoted them to Canada, which is not such a bad thing to devote 10 days to, if one is facing a choice about such a thing. Some of the highlights (in no particular order) include:
* buying a bunch of snowboarding gear, and getting to talk technology, and hang out (briefly) with people whose lives revolve around travelling downhill on snow. Whenever I meet people who are really cool, I hope that some of their coolness might rub off on me. The jury is still out on this one.
* having someone unexpectedly lend me all the gear I did not buy. The kindness of strangers is always unexpected, and all the better for it. Serendipity will play a big role in this trip, I am sure.
* sitting on the plane from New Zealand with a really friendly American woman who suffered from claustrophobia. A strange highlight I suppose. It feels more than a little voyeristic. I was torn between the compulsion to watch her periodic fits of fear, and the desire to avoid embarassing her by turning her into a circus attraction.
* driving on the right again. Fortunately this time around there were very few occasions where I pulled out on to the wrong side of the road. Usually from a car park, and only when there were no other cars around.
* hitting Dave’s house for a party in Rossland (a little ski town in the middle of nowhere). We knew what street Dave lived on. So we drove down the street looking for a party. Ah ha! Red and blue lights. A few people in the lounge. So we park the car and jump out. A guy comes out of the party house. He says no, no. Dave lives down the street a ways (a handy Canadianism for indefinite distance). We find the party. This is not unusual. What is unusual is that no one is even slightly surprised that this stranger knows where Dave lives, and the stranger is not in the least bit surprised that we asked him. After all, the only connection with Dave is to live in the same street. How many people do you know in your street?
* an incredible prevalence of Australians. I thought there were a lot in Sydney or Melbourne. But this is nothing compared with their concentration on the skifields and in the skitowns of British Columbia.
* rediscovering why it is a bad idea to eat seafood when one is far from the sea (and why it can be a bad idea to eat it even when one is close).
* being served by a really drunk waiter, who had reached the deeply emotional stage of drunkeness. Her ego seemed to rest on heart-to-heart conversations with us and repeated assurances that she was an excellent waiter and, yes, certainly far better than the other waiter who had served us before.
* visiting skihills that were named after colours (note the ‘u’). Given that there is one called ‘Red’ and other called ‘White’, it would seem only sensible and patriotic to create a new one called Blue (at least it would if we were just a hundred miles or so south).
* never ever getting up early enough to make the first chair in the morning.
* an illness theme that ran through the holiday. We watched stigmata, experienced narcolepsy, worried about SARS, and had fainting fits. I read a very small part of an interesting book and talked about the difference between illness (what the patient feels) and disease (the actual sickness) and how the two are not necessarily related.
I also got to laugh again at security flying through the United States. They never appear to find anything, although I assume the main effect is deterrent, and they spend a lot of energy ensuring that personal grooming on board is kept to a minimum. They also have an amusingly formal style in announcements (“Please maintain visual contact with your personal belongings at all times”).
It struck me that they could offer people a choice. Airline A will search all bags, ask all passengers to remove their shoes, and make sure that no one is carrying anything sharp into the cabin. Queues will be long and processes complex. Airline B will not search anything. Queues will be at checkin (as usual) but nowhere else. Then people can choose the level of security they would prefer. And vote with their feet.