In more than 40 years of motoring, sailing, cruising, riding on the backs of large animals, flying and other means of transportation that have taken me from one destination to another, I have encountered all sorts of situations and incidents that have made the trip pleasurable. And, unfortunately, some that detracted from the enjoyment. I try not to let those distractions create inner turmoil, but sometimes they just do. So I’ve steeled myself to live with them rather than let them upset me.
But, being a senior traveler, it is my right to gripe about them.
Among the leaders on my list of annoyances are rude travelers, particularly those who ignore the rules. They take photos in places where signs clearly forbid it, they swear at bartenders in foreign lands because they don’t make certain drinks like back home; and they bully their way into crowded tourist sites while others are waiting in line.
They’are always late for tour bus departure times, complain about seating arrangements, smoke in non-smoking areas because they think the rules don’t apply to them when they’re in a foreign country, criticize local customs and meals, loudly refuse to try new food and chastise those who do, and sneak into areas marked “No Trespassing” so they can brag about getting photos nobody else has.
Next, local tour guides who insist we know absolutely everything about their particular city while passing up stunning photo ops in favor of some non-descript narration about when happened here in pre-Roman times. On that same level are the quasi-intellectuals who insist on knowing every little detail about what happened here in pre-Roman times so they can dominate the dinner table with their new-found knowledge even though they misinterpreted most of it.
But now, my list-topper:
When I look at spray painted defacements and felt-tipped scrawls, I wonder what goes on in the minds of those who perform such abominations. If you peeled open their skulls, would you find peas? Marbles and soggy peanuts?
It is particularly prevalent in Europe. On a recent trip to Vienna, I spotted a massive wooden church door that had a spray-painted slogan spewed across it. The church was more than 600 years old. That obviously makes little difference to these whose art medium spurts from an aerosol can. In a business district in Prague, every building has been spray-painted from ground level up to about the six-foot mark. Apparently, the “artists” had to stop at that height because they don’t carry step-ladders.
In Athens, hundred-years-old sculptures bear the scars of graffiti. In Bariloche, Argentina, a bronze statue of a war hero is completely covered with red and blue paint blotches. Museums, schools, memorials are all targets.
I asked a man at an information desk in Vienna why there’s so much. He replied, “They’re young. They’re just exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
I’m old. Just exercising my right to complain.