Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tourist X

I had an acquaintance who worked in a photo-developing place. This was back in the 90's, of course, before digital photography made that job as obsolete as buggy whips and lava lamps.

He kept a massive photo album of copies of pictures he'd stolen.

This was referred to loosely as "The Tome of Agony."

These little glimpses into people's lives were fascinating and terrifying in a way the current carefully planned reams of photos on Myspace or Facebook are not -- the amateur porn (much more than you'd think, of that, went into commercial film developing places), the pictures of profoundly unattractive or overweight or deformed people smiling cheerfully for the camera, the pictures of people who'd been in accidents or assaults and for insurance, legal or just sentimental reasons, had photographed it.

There was a special section reserved for photos of birthday parties of hydrocephalic children.

Anyway, to get to the point:

One section consisted of dozens of identical photos of people on vacation. Separate people, at separate times, making the exact same photos. Again and again and again

There must have been five dozen pictures of grinning tourists standing alone between the legs of the Eiffel Tower, for example.

"Did they all think they were the first person to make this picture," my friend pondered. "Because the look on their faces suggests so."

As Tyler Durden says -- You are not special. You are not a beautiful unique snowflake. You are not special. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

Travelling always makes me think of that now.

Especially thought of it as I stumbled around Jordan with the Girlfriend, a couple of weeks ago. She missed a connection and arrived a day late -- we went to Aqaba, where I suppose I should be grateful for the last few chances to see Red Sea coral before all of it dies, and the magnificent ancient city of Petra, where we paid $80 each to get in and jockeyed for camera angles free of tourists before Girlfreind got hot and tired and we left after 5 hours.

We slapped Dead Sea mud all over each other at a resort there, and wandered the crowded streets and ate shawarmas and chicken in Amman, which seemed to have more heavy smokers even thanRussia.

There are pictures of me at Petra in a plaid shirt, cargo shorts, a white ball hat, and sunglasses and sandals. I look like a complete middle-aged tourist, lacking only a fanny pack.

(Of course I own a fanny pack -- I've had the same one since my first backpacking trip in 1992. Haven't worn it in a while. It's older than most of the people in the Top 40 these days. Uh, is there still such a thing as the Top 40? Maybe I should say "Most Popular on Itunes" or whatever. )

Next trip is in February -- Girlfriend wants to go to Goa in India. (My last trip to India in 1994 -- during which I incessantly wore my fanny pack -- ended with me catching the stomach parasite giardia and losing about 20 kg in weight.)


Anonymous said...

Just want to say this is a great blog and I love your wry sense of humour and astute observations. I reguarly check this site for updates. If you are running out of interesting stories in the middle east perhaps you could do a few more of those retrospective posts, I've always enjoyed those.

Maybe you could finally write about how you lost your job in Phuket?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was impossible to lose a job in Phuket...

I have a Canadian born friend of Indian descent who visited his family recently. People will try to rip you off constantly so beware. You're well traveled enough that this is probably just wasted words anyway...

I'm headed to Korea in a few months. I'll be looking for a CELTA course while I'm there as per your advice. Hope all is well,


English Teacher X said...

I've been to India -- yeah, there are a lot of rip-off artists -- my last trip to India in 1994 -- during which I incessantly wore my fanny pack -- ended with me catching the stomach parasite giardia and losing about 20 kg in weight.

Anonymous said...

That doesn't sound like a very fun trip. 1994? I couldn't sleep that year, because my older brother insisted that we sleep to "Far Beyond Driven" every night.