Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Eau de credit cards and missed opportunities


Every day, when Pat comes to find me here in the office, typing (*ahem*) away at some story assignment, he plops down a pile of mail on the desk: postcards for cooking classes, magazines (Our State, The New Yorker, Traveler), another plea for money from Doctors Without Borders. Mixed in, for the last week or so, we've found nearly every other day (it seems), a credit card bill slid in there, hoping to go unnoticed so that the shocking 18 percent (or more) interest rate can begin immediately and send you to the poor house for that $2 can of soup you bought at the grocery store (on credit, no cash that day!) that suddenly turned into a $20 can of Solid Gold Tomato. Much more fitting for eBay than for a desperation lunch.

Not surprisingly, the bills, they're high. Two nearly $750 plane tickets and hotel rooms that went more than $500 each (damn that exchange rate with is TERRIBLE right now. Michael, a native Italian who lives now in New Jersey told us, as we all waited to get on the Rome-bound flight at the Newark Airport, how he thought the exchange rate signals the Downfall Of America. "It is TERRIBLE," he said. I quote him with abandon.) equals a nightly rooftop money dance. While we got a card before we left that didn't charge the ridiculous "foreign transaction fee," which nickel and dimes you into oblivion, and while we paid cash for most things (As with laptopitis, Italians also seem immune from the scourge of credit. Though, really, a credit card is much more convenient than carrying around armfuls of Euros, even if they offer nice insulation during the Never-ending Roman Rains.), the card bills? Not so much fun.

[While in the US, you can buy a pair of $2.14 shoelaces on credit -- which we did, when Pat suddenly realized that we were leaving in a matter of hours and he didn't have shoelaces for the only pair of shoes he wanted to bring -- you better be forking over Large Ones for that bottle of wine and pastries, my friends. When in Rome...]

This brings me to the Post Travel/Delayed Pain Blues, or what some could call the Oh For The Love Of God, Just Rip The Band Aid Off Blues.

Here they are:
  1. Why didn't we go to that jazz club? Why was I such a tired wimp?

  2. That museum, the one that's supposed to be better than the Vatican, why didn't we go there again?

  3. Why didn't I learn the right settings for my camera thus avoiding all those washed out, overexposed/underexposed, blurry pictures that are now cluttering my computer? And why didn't I take more (good) pictures? (Associated blue: Why didn't I get an MFA in photography before leaving?)

  4. And Pompeii? Why didn't we go there again? Why did we just stay in Rome for seven days? Were we crazy?

  5. Why didn't I pitch some travel story ideas before leaving? (Associated blue: When am I going to get started, for real?)

  6. And that day where I just read for hours while it poured outside, why didn't we do something except give each other the Cold Shoulder and I'll Never Speak To You Agains? Why didn't we buy another umbrella and leave the hotel room?

  7. Why?
In the days following our return, I wasn't haunted so much by what we did but by The Missed Opportunities, the times where I just didn't want to walk anymore, by the times the sunlight disappeared before we were through, the times I couldn't take another blank-eyed marble bust of this or that. It's the traveler's version of buyer's remorse, these "coulda, shoulda, wouldas."

1 comment:

Frances said...

dang, I wish blogger let me favorite entries. i love this, love this, love this. that's the thing, that's what travelling is -- that's how come i hate all those pre-planned, follow somebody around tours. yeah, you see more but it's the emotional equivalent of having a picnic in an office park (better than that, I reckon, but still). we did that with school for part of our trip to germany -- it was only when haruyo and i decided to go off on our own, get lost, stranded, and hitchhiked back that i felt like i'd really experienced anything. or when me and her were so depressed we just sat in the room and watched the good, the bad & the ugly dubbed into german. the bus tour to neuschwanstein castle? ummm, while it was pretty (very) and interesting (very), it was uncomfortable in the way attending a wedding shower for somebody you don't really know is uncomfortable. anyhow, man, i love this entry. i went all the way to italy on the train, to see my friend barbara, but she was out for the day (just the day), had gone to france, and i jumped back on the train and headed back to switzerland. couldn't wait four hours or so. her mom cooked us rabbit, bought coca-colas, made a cake, all to welcome me to their house and i LEFT. (in my defense, i tried to explain on the phone to her mom but me: no italian, her: no english -- she just kept excitedly saying things and i'd go, uh-huh, yeah.) missed opportunities, i get them. this is from kathryn. xoxoxoxo