My choice of title has a bit of personal irony about it. (The Alanis Morrisette kind, not the Greek drama kind. Just chill out, people.) You see, “Visiting” is the term used in my Cats and Mages books for magickal teleportation: No muss, no fuss.
Instead, I’ve been visiting the human way: by bus. There’s a reason bus travel is a fraction of the price of other methods; they are small packages of Purgatory. I am old school and if I had my druthers and a whole pile of money, I would take the train—smoother travel, more leg room, and civilized restrooms.
Planes are buses with wings and interrogation from Homeland; their only real benefit is that they get you there a lot faster, so if you abstain from caffeine, you won’t have to pee between, say, New York and Chicago. (Although their toilets don’t have a disconcerting rush of air on your ying-yang while you’re trying—and in my case, usually failing—to relax your traumatized and nervous equipment enough to do the job. In the interest of fulfilling the Interwebs’ true purpose of providing too much information, I will share that I can only pee on a bus if I am close to severe physical pain.)
And then with any travel, really, there’s the schleppage. Because I replaced my laptop with a tablet, and can’t negotiate its wee keyboard, I travel with an additional fullsize keyboard and trackball, which makes for a bulky backpack which is also stuffed with all the things I falsely think I’ll get to on the trip, or forgot until the last minute. I also have a CPAP machine, which, being a prima donna, has its own small case that needs to be stowed in the overhead and thus possibly forgotten.
But I digress. This essay is on visiting, not traveling per se, so we need to talk about the reason for the purgatorial urine retention, which is to see important people in my life. I love these folks a whole lot, which is why I’ve done an unprecedented amount of busing this holiday season.
First up was my trip to my sister and brother-in-law in New Jersey, which was a lot of fun once I got there. I returned home with loot from their fantastic thrift store and a quarter of a metric sheepton of silk scraps. (I’ve always wanted to make a classic crazy quilt, and the Junior Sister scored big on the going-out-of-business sale of a fancy lingerie maker.) And then there was the ride home, which is when the bus broke down halfway between Hartford and Boston. At night. It had lost power, which meant no heat and no phone charging. Our luggage was lined up on the side of the road in the dark while we awaited rescue. Sigh.
Second is my current expedition to New Hampshire two scant weeks later to see my good friend and writing, shopping, and schmoozing buddy, who abandoned Boston several years ago to my great dismay. So far this trip has also not gone as planned, because my hostess’ back went out right beforehand. (The shopping took place anyway, as she introduced me to Amazon’s lightning deals. Sigh again.)
The thing about visiting is that you are taken out of your usual routine. Each hostess inquired about my essential needs with some anxiety, and I replied that all I really needed was pudding to take my evening meds. But that expanded when I arrived—Sis had run out of distilled water, which I need for my CPAP machine, and the writing buddy hadn’t been able to get to the store because of the back, so she provided scrumptious homemade apple-and-pearsauce instead of pudding.
As it happens, neither household does dairy, so my Morning Beverage routine was disrupted. A well-meaning young plumber had misinstalled my sister’s john when replacing the wax seal, so the potty was catawampous, which the reader may by now guess was disconcerting, and my New Hampshire friend keeps her house at a temperature I find bracing, to say the least. (I have Raynaud’s, so keeping my core temp up seems to help keep my hands functional.)
The result of these small deviations from the paths of my life is that I have ended up feeling like a princess, and not in a good way. It’s as if a magnifying glass has been focused upon me, and the bright light of Difference is scorching the skin of my complacency. If I were honest, there’s a whole slew of things I find “essential,” and going somewhere else just points that up, because very few of them are in fact necessary to my vital continuance. I can get by without my CPAP for a night. I can take my pills with food. I put whipped cream in my tea at one house, and almond milk at the second.
What’s really important is maintaining connection with the people: getting to see their faces, hearing their jokes and stories, commiserating with their pain, and peeking into their own life paths. That’s priceless, and well worth a broken-down bus or two.
Back to the bus fail: I learned three things that night:
First: Don’t overpack. Even though I had my sturdy brother-in-law at one end and my son and faithful Sherpa meeting me at the other, I ended up schlepping all that silk along the roadway myself.
Second: Don’t travel with your sweet little messenger bag that doesn’t zip. I dropped all my stuff trying (and failing) to scramble onto the first Good Samaritan bus that stopped, and lost my pricey prescription reading glasses.
Third: People are awesome. As soon as the other passengers heard about the loss, at least four people leaped off our cold and dark bus into the colder and darker night, looking for my glasses with their cellphone flashlights—and they were found. It utterly transformed the night for me.
And in the end, that last is what visiting is all about. People are awesome, and each treasured friend is worth the adventure.
“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”—Bilbo Baggins