Tourists as a class of people are subject to much disdain. The vilification is popular not only in cartoons (where the sloppy casual appearance of over-weight and brightly dressed tourists are regularly ridiculed). Tourists generally enjoy a poor reputation for public performance. The real proof of the snootiness is the mere fact that you have probably never entertained a tourist in your home. Tourists inspire a degree of derision which invites aloofness. Even when the shopkeeper or innkeeper makes his or her living from the business, entertainment or accommodation of tourists it is a thinly veiled secret that they disparage the sight of tourists. Small wonder therefore that as a tourist on foreign soil you are liable to face a predictable lonely existence and there is no amount of expenditure which will garner the same hominess of friendly acquaintance as in the place where you live. At best a tourist can count on token deferral and polite condescension.
Picture our delight therefore at having spent a thoroughly agreeable afternoon today on Hilton Head Island with two people whom we hardly know, two fellow tourists. In spite of being thousands of kilometers from home we four enacted an afternoon ceremony worthy of the most refined social foregathering. Initially it may be tempting to compensate the exuberance of the congregation by dismissing it as a chance encounter of people who hail from the same provenance. Certainly it was pure coincidence that we first met a year ago on the beach near Coligny Plaza, they walking their handsome French bulldog Max, I recovering still from the loss of my own Frenchie. But nothing came of that encounter until by pure chance the same collision of people and dog reoccurred exactly one year later! Well! I mean to say! If ever there were messages in the stars!
As a result it was but a small revelation to receive a generous invitation from our new acquaintances to rally with them for a drink at their place in Sea Pines at 1:00 p.m. today, Saturday afternoon. Our hosts, J and A, are a married couple – at least that is what we presumed; and he runs a sole proprietorship. Other than that we knew nothing of them and likely they knew even less about us until today. Yet the short-lived alliance had all the hallmarks of workability and at the very least respectability and promise. Accordingly it was without indecision that we gleefully accepted our unique invitation and began looking forward to it, wondering from time to time what was to come of it.
This afternoon as we drove into the laneway which led to our hosts’ habitation, we encountered the Laird of the Manor dutifully walking his faithful French bulldog Max. The sight of them instantly raised our spirits as we are perpetually in need of a dog fix. I parked the car in the drive and was immediately greeted at the door by Her Ladyship, an eye-catching Nordic looking woman. We all retired into the home and went about a summary tour of the place, exchanging comparative observations about the various rental opportunities on the Island. Naturally Max monopolized a considerable amount of our time (a predisposition which by the way continued unabated during the subsequent three hours of our gathering).
It became readily apparent that our hosts – who are our juniors by some twenty years - are dynamic individuals. His Lordship easily qualifies as man of many parts having a wide-ranging personality. Paradoxically I fathom that his greatest challenge in life will be to settle upon doing what speaks to him most rather than having to suffer the common indignity of being suited to one avocation only. Such is the penalty of choice. Her Ladyship is equally intelligent and ambitious though she appears to be more inclined to self-improvement rather than self-discovery, a thankful corollary to the normal limitation of innate capacity. In either case both are vivacious, adventurous and determined. I take it as no small compliment that they thought to invite us into their sphere of discovery.
As for the conversation which ensued I am poorly positioned to comment upon the nature of the ramblings except to observe that there was clearly no agenda and the diversions flitted like a butterfly from one topic to another. It was thus by means of this unscripted and impulsive repartee that imperceptibly the minutes stretched into hours. Our hosts had prepared a healthy festive board of fruit and cheese but unfortunately our appetites were then wanting so it was largely overlooked though the Champagne and orange juice were not lost on us.
This afternoon’s party easily stands out as a highly singular affair. Seldom can one report such a communion while being a tourist. It reminded me of the pleasures of society and removed us temporarily from having to focus always outwardly as a tourist is so often obliged to do. The social mix lifted us from the quagmire of mediocrity which inevitably accompanies people who are estranged from the humanity of others.