When I got on the elevator at work recently, I entered the car where three women and one other man were returning from acquiring coffee. One of the women sounded remarkably like Raj’s girlfriend from “The Big Bang Theory.” They talked about New York for some reason. As we began to ascend, the man chimed in with this gem: “I would never even want to visit New York.”
Aw, great. Thank you for that, sir. Now I get to spend my entire morning digesting that thin, but savory slice of moron pie.
When you say something that flatly idiotic, it sort of takes everyone by surprise. You feel the air density change in the elevator car. The women immediately tried to back off this statement, as if they didn’t want it to linger undebated in the world for longer than three interminable seconds. One of them said, “I could see never wanting to live there… But never even visit?” The other two jumped in ad hoc to defend a city they did not live in as well, and while I heard the instigator mumble something about hating the airport, the door opened and they exited.
I hated him for making a statement so bluntly stupid, and I hated myself for allowing it to sink its claws into my brain. I should have dismissed it immediately and been happy that I’d never have to accidentally share an airport shuttle with him where he complained about the line at the Olive Garden in Times Square. But what I couldn’t stop thinking about was the theoretical banter we had in the elevator.
“I would never even want to visit New York.”
“I TOTALLY get that. It’s only one of the world’s cultural meccas, filled with interesting people from all walks of life, amazing food of all types, and an energy that you can feel radiating in your bones as you’ve never felt so simultaneously invincible and vulnerable. I suppose not everyone should have the BURDEN of experiencing that, you fucking dumbass.”
(shamed and defeated, he evaporates in a puff of purple smoke)
Not to project too much on someone I barely know, but it’s hard to imagine living your life with a mindset that would allow you think, let alone say, such an insipid thought. I’ve traveled a bunch for work, a lot for pleasure, and some for family obligations, and while much of it is extraordinarily unglamorous, there’s value in all of it.
I am no fan of Houston, having lived there for a year of my life already, but one time I met my friend Stephen to play trivia at a cool Midtown bar and barbecue joint I had never been to and never would have thought of otherwise. Another time my dad was in town at the same time and took me to a swank Italian bistro in the richest part of town. The bread basket alone was worth the trip.
I found some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant in Bozeman, MT by myself. Earlier that morning I saw the sun rise over the Crazy Mountains.
I’ve twice explored Washington, DC with my wife and both trips have ranked among our favorites.
One of the consultants I work with had invested in a Southern-style bistro in Cheyenne, WY, so I had brunch there one day as I sat on their patio drinking a bourbon cocktail they invented and a crazy good pulled pork benedict.
Kristin and I went to Springfield, MO earlier this year and found their two microbreweries. We connected with beer nerds in Southeast Missouri.
We went to Paris almost two years ago, and before I went I was talking with a different colleague who told me, “My wife and I went to Paris and didn’t really like it that much.” When I asked why, he replied, “Lot of rude people…” And that’s when I knew I could tune out. And after I returned from Paris, I was happy I did.
People in Paris aren’t rude. They’re proud. They’re busy. They want people in their country to speak their language. You know that makes them? Americans. They’re Americans who simply speak a different language.
Imagine you’re going about your day, and some jagoff waltzes up to you holding out a map yammering on in some other language. You’d be like, fuck that guy. Speak English.
But if someone approached politely, made their best attempt at speaking English (and still pretty much sucked at it), and asked you to point them in the right direction, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to help them? That’s what Paris is like. Just show that you’re trying. Show that you’re not here expecting the world to cater to you, but that you simply might need just a bit of help as you navigate previously uncharted waters. People will reveal themselves to be lovely.
I don’t know what makes people think what they think about Paris, New York, or anywhere else they’ve arbitrarily closed themselves off to. I don’t know if they picture Paris as looking like the opening frames of Team America: World Police and the entire city of New York being comprised solely of patrons visiting CBGB’s for a Buzzcocks show in 1977, or what.
But I do know that in that very same elevator I saw this little quote (that I’m probably butchering) on the small TV screen that cycles through newsbits and stock prices and shit:
“Don’t invest your money in physical things – they only deteriorate and break. Invest in experiences such as travel – it’s the only thing that gets richer the more you talk about it and remember.”
I have never traveled to a place that in retrospect I was not happy to have been. And I’m always looking forward to more.