Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

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Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side

I have a friend who is an auditor for an international company. She travels extensively, criss-crossing between languages and cultures and at times it seems she spends more time on aircraft than she does on the ground. It’s a gruelling job and the constant travelling, plus the intricacies of her profession, demand that she keep her senses fine tuned at all times.

But her friends suggest that she has a swank life; jetting off to foreign lands, staying in posh hotels - it all seems so glamorous. And as a result, sometimes it becomes difficult for her to engage with her friends back home.

I understand completely. With many of my own friends who work for the airlines, I can sit with them whilst they talk about a great lunch they had in Cape Town on Monday, and a wonderful little bistro they found on Copacabaña Beach in Rio the following week. To outsiders it might appear they are boasting. But the reality is that it's the nature of their work.

But those people who do this work, living out of suitcases, surfing across time zones, and listening to their children grow by phone, rather than seeing them grow, have surrendered more than most can imagine. For airline crew, the destination they’ve reached has required them to (literally), walk halfway around the world. They’ve had to face aggressive passengers, smelly passengers, rude passengers, demanding passengers, and occasionally just downright strange passengers.

And what do they get in exchange for collecting all those dirty meal trays? On board, they get abuse because of the weather, because the passenger got stroppy with the gate agent and didn’t get a free upgrade, or because they had a row with their spouse before leaving for the airport and they needed someone to use as their punching bag!

They get to pop on a bus after all the passengers have disembarked, they get to check into a hotel far away from the city - sometimes into rooms that smell worse than the passenger they’ve been so anxious to escape for the past eight thousand miles. They get to wrangle with their body clocks to force themselves to sleep. And most of the time they wake up not remembering where they are because every single hotel room begins to look the same.

I can attest to this. Many years ago there was a time when I spent one hundred and eighty seven nights, in a single year, in Marriott hotels. (plus another 75 in an assortment of, Ritz, Four Seasons, Intercontinentals and Westins!) One morning I woke up not having a clue where I was.

The only things of which I was reasonably certain was that there would be an exasperating ‘how was your stay’ questionnaire on the bed, the bathroom would be on the right, the towels would be some 1970’s retro rendition of earth-tone beige, the ergonomically curved soap would have had a matching colour and the bathroom would reek with the lingering scent of miniature bars of Neutrogena soap. The other thing of which I was certain was that there would be a beige phone and that I could dial '55' and hear the aspartame voice of a management trainee who was trying to exercise a nurturing concern for whatever it was I was rambling on about.

I remember the morning I groped for the phone through the dark and pressed 55. ‘Where am I?’ I quietly asked. I still recall the conversation as if it were yesterday. ‘You’re calling from room 1819,’ the chirpy little voice confirmed. I would have rolled my eyes but they were still stuck with sand. ‘No, WHERE am I?’ I repeated, hoping I wasn’t going to have to go through facial exercises that early in the morning.

‘You’re in the Marriott, sir.’ You could hear how she emphasised the word ‘sir,’ as if she were looking around the hotel herself for confirmation.

‘No…,’ I moaned, ‘What Marriott!’ The girl now seemed to understand. ‘You’re in the Marriott City Centre, sir.’ And I could hear her tone of satisfaction as if she had just successfully completed the next level of Marriott’s management training course in dealing with hung-over guests.

I do give thanks to God for making me inherently friendly. I still had to muster up my best ‘phone smile’ to ask ‘please, can you tell me what city I’m in?’ There was a pause before the girl responded. I know she didn’t go outside to check for herself and I hope she didn’t have to ask anyone. I think she was just surprised by the question. She quietly whispered ‘you’re in Melbourne, sir.’

I can’t recall whether I put the phone down first or sprang up in bed first. I wasn’t going to demean myself further. She really would have thought I was some torpid, hung-over drunk. (not a good thing when you’re in a Mormon owned hotel!) I swung my feet over to the floor and forced myself to take account of my surroundings. I had fallen asleep, atop the bed spread, in my clothes, and with the telly on. Glaring at me through the darkness was the same old repetitious twaddle of CNN International.

It finally dawned on me that I was in Australia. The problem is that I had been in Orlando just two days before and when the girl said ‘Melbourne,’ ...well, you can imagine. The common term is ‘jet lag.’ But for me it was the catalyst I needed to not stay in a Marriott again for many years. (no offence meant, Marriott.)

Living in this fashion may be fine if you’re single and determined to remain so for the rest of your life. But if you’re married, or in a committed relationship then it can become taxing, not to mention detrimental to both of you.

People who live out of suitcases often fantasize about a life where they can stand still and not have to keep their guard up continually. Those who live the more ‘conventional’ (if there is such a term nowadays), lifestyle, fantasize about the opportunity to travel.

For those of you who hop on an aircraft in the morning, arrive in a foreign city at night, drag yourselves out of bed the next morning to go sit in an office with people whom you don’t know, or worse, detest, then that afternoon head back to the airport to fly home, just to repeat the exercise several days later; I admire you! But hope you have a plethora of psychiatric insurance coverage!

For those of you who drag yourselves out of bed in the morning, get the kiddies ready for school, then head off to work, then come home to receive your children, wash clothes, clean the house, prepare dinner, then drop off to sleep from exhaustion; I admire you too!

Without either of you, our world would be a lesser place.

Go get em tiger!

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