Dig those crazy tourists
Tourists are crazy.
This occurred to me, during a recent trip to Switzerland, moments after shooting a photograph of my own foot next to a large slug.
This really was an extraordinarily large slug, one of the biggest I'd seen during this trip, and I'd seen quite a few. Slugs seem to grow larger in Switzerland than in the U.S. Too much chocolate, perhaps.
I decided to photograph this slug with my foot alongside it to give the viewer a sense of scale. As I focused the camera, I sincerely believed somewhere in my world was someone who would want to see a picture of a very large Swiss slug.
The second the shutter clicked, however, the delusion evaporated and the truth dawned on me: Nobody would ever be interested in my slug photo and tourists are crazy.
In a foreign country, everything is fascinating. Tourists treat supermarkets like museums, locals like sideshows, and the mundane like the fantastic. It's crazy.
Most tourists have their own version of my slug photo. Kira from California, a fellow tourist in Switzerland, photographed a cup of coffee one morning "The waitress thought I was insane," Kira said.
She was, in a tourist way. So was a Swiss woman I met, whose photo album of a cruise she'd taken included a photograph of a hallway. Tourists photograph motel rooms, waiters, street signs and scenes so obscure, their significance is quickly forgotten though at the time, in our tourist induced insanity, we apparently found them worthy of record.
I lost my mind again a few moments after the slug incident, which happened on a drizzly day while I explored one of Switzerland 's wonderful footpaths
What must that Swiss woman have thought when she stumbled upon me peering studiously at a receptacle called a "Robidog," which was designed specifically for dog doo disposal? I'd never seen such a thing before and it warranted investigation, but how could even the most eloquent sign language explain my fascination? I didn't try; I just blushed and hurried along
At the next Robidog station, however, I checked for witnesses, then grabbed several of the plastic disposal bags (decorated with a picture of a doggie in the act) and stuffed them in my pocket as souvenirs. These were such a smash among my fellow crazies, several sought out Robidog bags for souvenirs of their own.
And how about the crazy things tourists say? I had trouble recalling at crucial moments the casual greeting, "grüezi," and so sometimes would simply mumble whatever "g" word first came to mind Guernsey, greasy, Gretsky and hope it sounded close enough.
Steven from Ohio, flustered by a stream of German directed at him, interrupted the verbose local by explaining, "I don't speak English." Kira, after a complicated interaction with a German speaking waitress, expressed her satisfaction with the outcome.
"Vetty goot," she said. What devious part of tourists' addled brains tells us that speaking English with a funny accent is just like speaking another language?
Even when tourists are not acting crazy, we may look it. Away from home and all our stuff, we often must improvise, with sometimes strange results
I forgot to bring a water bottle on this trip and planned to do a lot of hiking. In the refrigerator of my rented apartment I came across a half full plastic bottle of what, without studying the label, I mistook for celery soda. I decided to empty the bottle to use for water.
The moment I started pouring out the contents, however, I realized my mistake. Examining the label, I saw it clearly said "vinaigre." Oh well, I'd poured out much of it already. I emptied the rest, washed the bottle out, and it became my water bottle.
So, back to that damp day in the country, where I paused by the side of a narrow road for a drink of water. At that moment, a car drove by.
The driver had a funny expression on his face as he passed and I realized that, as far as he could tell, I was standing in the rain, juggling a camera, knapsack, and umbrella, and swilling vinegar.
I could almost see the thought balloon as he drove past.