Copyright © 1997 Henrietta W. Hay
July 16, 1996
Some people collect baseball cards. I have a friend who collects golf
balls. Once upon a time I collected stamps.
Now I am collecting strange, faraway cities on my telephone bills.
Newark was one thing. But Abu Dhabi? My number two son wants to add
some excitement to my life, so he calls me collect during his travels
to be sure I have a written record of them. This is not a new thing
with us. For the eight years my two sons were in college in
California, Palo Alto and Claremont showed up regularly on my bills.
But one of them was born with an itchy foot, which seems to be growing
itchier with age. He loves to travel and has managed to find a
profession which requires it. I have no idea where he got this
urge. Me, I don't really want to go anywhere. At this stage of my
life, I am quite happy right here in Happy Valley. The idea of
fighting crowds, trying to find my way through airports and hurtling
through space in an aluminum tube at 600 miles an hour does not appeal
to me at all. I did enough traveling in years past to give me lots of
great memories, which I can now enjoy sitting down.
But Dave doesn 't understand why everyone does not share his
enthusiasm for seeing new and wonderful places. He did drag me off to
Europe some years ago and of course I had a wonderful time in Warsaw
and Amsterdam and London. I even got to fulfill one of my childhood
fantasies and stand in the center of the mystic circle at Stonehenge.
So -- been there, done that. But Dave was just starting.
Early on I learned one thing about about having a kid with the
wanderlust. It is much better for a parent's nervous system to find
out about his adventures after they have happened -- long after.
After my first phone bill from Poland I learned that he had
hitch-hiked across eastern Europe from Warsaw to Varna on the Black
Sea. Later on during that same trip, while swimming with some young
Turks in the Bosporus he had pennies tossed to him by American
tourists. I suspect that by then he needed them.
During the time that the phone bills came from France, England and
Belgium, I was spared the knowledge that he had blithely gotten off a
train going from Brugge to Brussels, leaving his jacket, his wallet
and his passport to travel on without him. Some hours later, with a
lot of help from a lot of nice people, he sheepishly entered a train
station to be greeted with, "You must be the crazy American." Yes.
Now the calls are coming from such exotic places as Manama in Bahrain,
Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and a mysterious call
via cellular phone from a boat bouncing around on the Persian Gulf.
They are augmented by extensive reports via e-mail.
I never heard of Bahrain until he went there. It is a very tiny, very
rich island in the Persian Gulf. Manama is a modern and luxurious
city, but he reports that the countryside often looks a lot like
western Colorado except that it has camels instead of cows.
Bahrain is right across a bridge from Dharan in Saudi Arabia where the
bomb went off, and for once I did my worrying before he reported in.
He got his first details from me via CNN and the internet. Turns out
mothers can be useful after all.
The United Arab Emirates consist chiefly of Abu Dhabi, sand and oil,
perhaps not in that order. To my great relief he stayed out of
trouble while exploring that area, but his reports convince me that it
is no place for an American feminist like me.
My armchair travel via Dave, cyperspace and telephone had been a great
adventure. My big atlas is showing signs of wear and tear and I have
searched the web for maps and information. Those exciting phone calls
are worth the cost. There is a limit, though.
I don't know whether he has signed up with NASA for a space voyage
yet, but I'm darned if I'll accept the charges from the moon.