Tuesday, June 13, 2006

THE ENEMY

When I returned from Portsmouth early Sunday afternoon, I hopped on a bus at Waterloo Station that would deposit me back home. The route of this bus went through the Strand and past Somerset House, along the outskirts of Covent Garden, and near Oxford Street. And as we passed through these popular London areas, I watched them from my window. They were everywhere, already, this early in June. They wore fanny-packs and had large boxy cameras swung around their necks. They - those people - stood in groups of 5 to 8 or more, all peering over a gigantic map of Central London. Some of them had small, screaming children in tow, tiny creatures that won't even remember being here. Many of them waddled down the street with enough extra weight that, spatially, one of them = three Londoners. Dressed in pleated khakis or tapered denim shorts, some of them wore uncrunched baseball caps advertising American football and baseball teams. They are the ones who go to Manhattan, stand on the corner of 8th Ave and 41st street with a mega-map, and actually ask native New Yorkers where 8th Ave and 42nd St. is. So in London, they're beyond lost.

I threw my hands over my face in horror when I saw that one of them was already wearing his "My Wife Went to London and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt" shirt. I couldn't look at them anymore.

They will be everywhere - already, so soon in the summer - in Europe. And I leave for Italy early tomorrow morning. The closest airport to Florence is Pisa, so I know that as soon as I get to Pisa, there will be gangs of globular folk rushing towards the city centre to snap a quick photo of the Leaning Tower, to braggartly 'show everyone back home' or 'everyone at the office'. They'll be in organized groups, livestock creatures pounding pavement in herds, all competing verbally about their kids, what trips they've already taken, what tacky tours they've over-paid for in years past.

When I went to Rome and Venice last year, it was ice-cold January, so they weren't around. This time will be different. In Florence I will wonder if going to see the David is actually worth wading through crowds of immensely slow walkers, syrupy talkers, and loud squawkers. Hopefully, Siena, the city to which I travel after Florence, won't be as bad. Perhaps I will dye my hair black and paint my skin olive sometime this afternoon, in order to not be mistaken for one of them. I booked myself rooms in really nice hotels just in case I'm too mortified to mingle amongst them. To avoid them, I will hitchhike into the countryside and shack up with a poor Italian family who makes me homemade pasta and wine.

After Siena, I expect that having a long weekend in Rome shall be safe because this wonder-woman will fly me around the city on her moto, keeping me away from all of them. We'll go back to her villa and cackle about overstuffed Jansport backpacks, tennis visors, and teased and poofed-up peroxided fake-blond bouffants. She and I will dine and drink at authentic city-folk joints, places that are not featured on The Travel Channel, establishments to which Rick Steves has never been. We'll watch futbol with natives all afternoon, and if any of them pass by, they'll wonder why Italians are watching "soccer". We'll snatch fanny-packs and Fodor's guidebooks and industrial sized cameras as we whiz by groups of them.

Mortified. Until I return to London on Tuesday morning.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them? - Anonymous