I was out of town this past weekend, taking Mom to Florida’s west coast to see my brother, sister-in-law and the grand kids (actually, one kid and two preteens).
I thought I packed everything I needed, but I managed to forget an item or two. I left my pajamas at home, but I had a T-shirt that worked just fine. Makeup remover was left behind, but a tube of petroleum jelly sufficed. And my iPad. I charged up the damned thing, and left it plugged in and sitting on the coffee table.
Dumb move, or was it?
I had a couple of pens and notebooks, so any writing I really needed to do was still possible. I’d have to transcribe, instead of plugging in and pushing buttons later, though. And there was no Internet, no apps, no games to play with. There is a computer and Wii at my brother’s house, but good luck trying to muscle in on the kids’ time. And forget the computer at the hotel. It never fails that you find some dull tourist plugging away in the “Business Center,” trying to book a seat on their return flight before the 24-hour time limit begins, or playing online poker because they can’t manage to find anything more interesting to do in a town not their own.
An amazing thing happens when you unplug and listen to what’s around you. You hear interesting stories, and see neat stuff. At breakfast in the hotel, I overheard a long-haul trucker lovingly describe his constant traveling companion: his dog’s ashes, which he kept in an urn in the truck cab. His dog had been “loyal to the end,” he said, and apparently he planned to be as well.
I watched with sadness as several cars pulled in on Saturday, and weary-looking travelers emerged with many suitcases, boxes and bags of food and cases of water. I was puzzled about the cargo, until I looked at their license plates: North Carolinians, likely escaping Hurricane Irene.
I had a good Greek lunch with my friend, and we exchanged the latest gossip about our friends, both real and virtual (we belong to the same message board.) I had the chance to get to my favorite Greek grocery store in Tarpon Springs (Haliki Market, 520 Athens St., Phone: (727) 937-6533) and commiserate with the owner about the lack of one of my favorite Greek things (Ion chocolate bars) and how she hoped to get them in soon.
At dinner with family on Friday, the preteen girls were occupied with their electronic gadgets. I had the opportunity to keep their little brother in line by offering him food he’d never tried: bread and butter wiped in grated Parmesan cheese, which he adored, and bits of steamed vegetables, including cauliflower, which he pronounced “a bit bland, but still quite interesting.” He’s five years old, and something of a critic. He thought the soup was “too similar to Campbell’s and not very tasty.” I found myself hoping the chef wasn’t listening nearby.
Speaking of the girls, while one played in a softball tournament on Saturday, I baked a cake with the other one. I let her do most of the labor while I supervised and did the dangerous stuff involving the oven. The cake looked and tasted perfect. She was very proud of her work, and seemed to enjoy learning to use a hand mixer instead of handling an iPhone.
I’m back and transcribing instead of downloading, but I don’t mind. I don’t think I missed a thing.