© Another Day in the Country
The familiar time schedule, the deadline for the newspaper, and the column to write are here once more. I’ve been on vacation, gone to faraway places, bending my ear toward news of home.
We were in Houston, Texas, on the day the tornadoes hit Kansas, and we sat in the hotel, my sister and I, watching CNN. The picture on the screen was of Wichita and we watched the storms progress. “Move your camera higher,” I said to the man on the television, “just a little higher because we need to see Ramona.” That was the beginning of our time away.
This was another one of those “working” vacations, but nonetheless it did all the things that vacations are supposed to do: provide a change of pace, a new environment, rest and relaxation.
As I’ve told you before, going on board a cruise ship is like traveling with the whole town of Herington, or any small town of about 5,000 people. Isn’t that amazing? A small town with shops and restaurants set afloat on a vast ocean like a paper boat in the bathtub.
Transported by air (a miracle in itself, when you stop and think about it) to this other world of elegance, delicious food, genteel manners and spectacular entertainment was mind-boggling. All this shine, polish, linen tablecloths and silver was delightful but also so different, as to be almost unexplainable, from Ramona. It was an alien environment.
My suitcase was packed, like an astronaut blasting into outer space, with clothes that I only wear once in a blue moon: the swim suit with the cover up, the high heels, the new dress, the long white pants with a matching top, the sparkling necklace. We lay on deck chairs by the pool, read books, attended seminars on Chinese medicine, and dressed up every night for dinner, served by charming, attentive waiters who even sang for us. It was another world, and I was the alien.
Truth be told, we all were aliens coming from our different planets. There were lots of Texans on board. A whole team of New York firefighters were vacationing, appearing in their dress uniforms one evening, brass buttons shining, proud of the world they represented. Most of our group were from California. We didn’t meet anyone else from Kansas.
The other folk, who like me did not normally live in this otherworldly environment created by Carnival Cruises, were smiling, open, polite, charming conversationalists, for the most part. They were glad to be here, had, in fact, paid to be here and were determined to enjoy every last minute of what this new world had to offer.
Only once did I see a grumbling, sour-faced man, standing impatiently as his wife; attempted to decide which cotton shirt she wanted to take home. “What about this one?” she asked. “What do you think?” as she shifted in front of the small mirror, smiling at herself. “What I think,” he retorted with a scowl, “is I don’t give a damn.” Wow! He was, thank goodness, the only really rude sort we’d seen for a week.
Quick as a wink, my sister retorted, “What you’re supposed to say is, ‘Honey, the blue one makes you look so lovely. (whisper) She just wants to please you’.” He flushed, she rolled her eyes, we understood.
We landed in Wichita at midnight and drove home, returning to this small-town orbit where we’re still somewhat alien after all these years. The streets were dark and quiet as about 100 fellow travelers slept in their cabins. We were back on board a very small boat surrounded by a sea of green iridescent wheat, wiser and rested from our sojourn to another galaxy. It was a relief to find Ramona still spinning intact with the same ongoing dramas like a familiar soap opera — we hadn’t missed much. And, tomorrow would be another day in the country.