Fish Out of Water, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
Nothing like traveling to make a person feel like a fish out of water. It’s an unnatural act, moving among strangers in airports and on airplanes. I sat next to man for two hours from Albuquerque to San Francisco and said nary a word. Not even “Hi.” Which is how I like it, but my Lord, yesterday on the one-hour drive to Jemez Springs Jim did the “New Mexico wave” (two fingers lifted off the steering wheel) to more people in passing cars than I’ll manage to acknowledge in the next 24 hours.
At this moment, sitting in the San Francisco airport, I’m feeling more bull in a china shop than fish out of water. I checked one piece of luggage but still have a soft leather carry-on that is mostly empty right now but will be filled with scarves and other goodies on the return leg. Then there’s my Samsonite laptop backpack, along with my large-dictionary-sized drawing-and-writing supply satchel. I bent down to pick up a piece of paper I’d dropped in the security line and ended up bopping a kid in the back of the head with two of my bags. Right now all my carry-ons and I are spread across three chairs, like we own the place.
When I went to Spain back in the mid-80s, with clothes and stuff enough to live there for a year, I carried a giant tote bag that was so heavy I had to nudge it with my booted foot down the side of the road. The only rolling anything they made back then were racks-with-wheels, the kind you had to bungie your luggage to, and since only old people bothered with those I used the kick-the-can method. I didn’t get my can even out of eyeshot of the train terminal before someone came along and offered to take me to a guest house with rooms for rent. The guy got me to the place without hitch—I ended up renting a room there for two weeks—although I’d never get into a stranger’s car these days.
Ah, there goes another fish out of water. First off, she’s a she. Not many of us single women around, and for all I know her husband and two kids with matching Dora-the-Explora rollaway bags are waiting for her around the corner. But I suspect not. She has a huge purse plus the kind of ginormous Coach shoulder bag that could knock a quarterback off his feet, much less two little kids. And she’s wearing a black dress, red shawl, and dainty round-big-toe sandals. Not the gauzy pants, layered t-shirts and sweatshirts, and Dankos that most traveling mothers wear.
Mostly I recognize the way she looked at me when she passed. A sort of “Ah, maybe I’ll grab a magazine and make myself at home in a quiet corner instead of wandering about the place feeling conspicuous” glance.
Postscript: I’m presently in San Francisco en route to Vietnam for another work-related visit—my sixth since 2005. I’ve written several posts about travel and specifically Vietnam; this post contains links to a bunch of them. Vietnam was the inspiration for finishing the doodle in this post, which I sketched in a pencil outline almost two years ago. Fish Out of Water was a red Ravine writing topic in September 2007. I finished the doodle on my last trip to Vietnam.