If you ever find yourself heading across country or around the world with my travel companion, you should know:
1. Talking is permitted, but discouraged.
The W takes flying very seriously. Why not? We're hurtling through the air at many miles an hour in a quite heavy piece of metal - at least, that's how it's been explained to me scientifically. The best thing for all parties to do, he figures, is keep quiet. Stay in your seat, headphones on, reading or sleeping. There is no need to strike up a conversation with a neighbor -- this can be done once the landing gear has safely been lowered. There is also no reason to talk to one's travel companion -- you'll be seeing each other for the duration of your trip, and any chit-chat can wait. Once, nearly twelve years ago, he turned to me somewhere over the Great Plains and said, "Bag." What? I hesitated -- purse? Shoulder bag? Laptop bag? Little plastic bag from the airport bookstore? No. "Bag. Bag!" he insisted. He was referring to one of the sweet little vomit bags tucked into the back flaps of the seat in front of us. Sadly, I failed that test, which proves the talking-is-unnecessary theory.
2. If you try, you can hold it.
I tested this theory on our recent trip. The W has an iron bladder, whereas I feel the urge to pee every hour or so. After our flight from Sacramento, we had a short layover in Phoenix, during which I grabbed a cup of gelato (so what? It's vacation) and the W grabbed a burger, fries and medium iced tea. On the plane, he was served a plastic cup of cranapple juice and later sipped from my water. It was a four-hour, fifty-minute flight, and somewhere over St. Louis, I gave in and waited fifteen minutes for a chance at the smallest bathroom of my life. You need to get up? I asked. He shook his head, frowning; I had violated rule number one. In Newark, we waited for half an hour for our luggage, discovered the Air Train was down for maintenance, took a RailLink bus to the train station (where the bathrooms were locked and I suddenly had to pee again), took the train to Penn Station, walked to our hotel, checked in, and the W graciously said, "You can have the bathroom first." By my calculations it had been eight hours at this point. The W officially has superhero status.
3. Walk faster, if possible.
The first time the W and I went to Europe (Paris, Athens, Istanbul, Rome), I realized that we walked at two completely different paces. The W walks with purpose, and I sort of slump along, not seeing the forest for the trees or the city for the skyscraper. Occasionally he turns around to make sure I have not disappeared down a manhole, and occasionally I catch up to him to point out things and request a bathroom break. Sometimes this means we get separated by large groups of people and sometimes I'm left to call, "Hold the elevator!" On our current trip, I trailed a good 20 feet behind him at the airport, holding my carry-on in one arm and pulling my suitcase with the other. In addition to laziness and curiosity, my footwear keeps me behind - a high heel or a delicate sandal, compared to the W's steady brogues. He has developed more patience for this over the years, I'm happy to report. Now when he turns around, it's to give me a smile, a shrug, and a look that says: Walk faster, if possible.
4. No need for a map.
The W could be dropped out of an airplane over an undisclosed location and find his way, blindfolded, to his destination. There are reality shows dedicated to this now, but the W does this not for fame or monetary gain. He simply can't help himself. I, on the other hand, once got lost in Venice. In Venice - a tiny island with signs every three feet (er, meters) directing pedestrians to St. Mark's Square. Even if I do get a slight grasp on our location, it's lost the minute I stop paying attention. Tonight, we stepped out of the restaurant onto a crowded street and I realized I had no idea where I was. (This used to cause me no small amount of panic, for which I would like to publicly thank the people who make GPS possible.) The W, however, knew just where we were, including which combination of left and right turns would lead us most directly to our hotel. As I marveled at this (from five feet behind), he turned around and said, "You know where we are, right?" It felt like a trick question. But then I saw the sign: 8th Avenue. "Yes! We turn right," I said, triumphantly. The W gave me a pitying look, and took me by the hand. "Two blocks to the left," he said.
So there you have it. My travelling companion is quiet, a urine camel, speedy and a flawless navigator. And I am one lucky girl.
Paula Treick DeBoard