Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Miscellaneous travel note rambles and not becoming my mother

It's bananas to see a Balkan spot as an example of how unaffordable DC restaurants are; we ate so well, and mostly affordably. Albania was cheap, Montenegro affordable, Croatia mixed, Bosnia mostly cheap, and Slovenia expensive. There were things that were a great value (the ferries to and from Korcula), other things that were expensive but worth the experience (the city walls in Dubrovnik, and the kayaking tour around the city, entry to Postojna caves), and a few things that were expensive and not worth it (entrance to Bled castle and the pathetic vegetarian meal at the restaurant). There were meals that were affordable and amazing, and others that were affordable but barely edible (the only vegetarian item at the restaurant we were near in Plitvice by the time we got hungry—pasta that tasted like it came out of a can even though I saw that it didn’t). We were each offended by different things (Jay by the price of bike rental in Korcula or at least by the activity itself; me by… Bled Castle). I was very wary of Postojna, but once inside, we both thought it was worth the price.

Our costs varied significantly such that we had to itemize (it was never a difference of just a few dollars), and with so many people, we to reconcile every night (even when it was down to three of us). And even so it was overwhelming. We took turns getting money out and paying for things. I accidentally got too much money out in Albania even after Jay had warned me not to; I'd misinterpreted the exchange rate by a zero or two. But it was mostly fine.


***
I'm still happy about my vacation. The planning was more stressful, though it could be a fun distraction.
The only vacationers who experienced an increase in happiness after the trip were those who reported feeling “very relaxed” on their vacation. Among those people, the vacation happiness effect lasted for just two weeks after the trip before returning to baseline levels.

This is week three and my post-vacation chill is fading but not gone.

***

K mentioned "You Should Have Asked" on the trip, which I'd not heard of before but it makes so much sense.
“When a man expects his partner to ask him to do things, he’s viewing her as the manager of household chores.”
Carolyn further explains,
“I’ll . . . hate myself for being a miserable nag” — and recognize no amount of love will make it healthy for you to stay.
Yes--I hate the person I become when I have to nag people, whether they're significant others or travel companions. I invited K on this trip and deliberately did not invite another friend who was also living in Europe because I knew I'd have to 'manage' her and nag her, and I wasn't feeling it. I had to do some nagging pre-trip, and I was occasionally annoyed when things I'd brought up ahead of time hit like a surprise (we have no obvious way to get to or from Korcula, for example). But it worked out.


I sometimes wonder if I'm too put off by men who appear to need management. I've heard too many married friends complain about their husbands—the dirty glasses they don’t see, the lists that have to be made for them to know what to do. Not only do I find relationship project management exhausting, I hate the person I become as a result of it. I have found that asking--not just significant others--brings results, if not the direct ones you seek; asking can expose the askee as a fraud. Remember when RM regularly insisted that I tell him what he could do to help, as he saw me scrambling, only to put on a confused ‘not that’ face when I actually told him? At least I asked and found out for sure that he was full of shit. I also regularly asked an ex to take part in planning stuff for us to do; he never did, and then accused me of arranging the relationship around my lifestyle. At least I’d asked, and so I knew he was full of shit. But these were both relationships that were doomed to end. In a functioning, healthy relationship, asking has to happen but it shouldn’t always have to happen.

I think about Ruth Reichl’s “Not Becoming My Mother,” in which the author largely pinned her mother’s misery and ensuing issues on her never having had a career of her own. That wasn’t my mother’s problem, although one could argue that toward the end of her functional life, retiring didn’t help her moods. More specifically, being home all the time after she retired allowed her to focus on hunting for misplaced objects around the house, but even before then, she'd hone in on random things and center a temper tantrum around them. It was what she did. She built an identity around being the only one who ever cleaned up after everyone else, regardless of whether it was true, and of how toxic it was in the long run. All she did was shop and pick at things around the house (“cleaning the garage,” in “The World According to Garp” parlance, although I’m not sure anything ever got cleaner).


I saw my mother miserably nag my dad and me, and since I've taken to nagging my dad, so I see where she was coming from, until the nagging became an end within itself. That is certainly one way in which I’m committed to not becoming my mother.

***  
We did laundry in Split and hung our clothes on the line outside, hoping they wouldn’t fall, as there’d be no way to get them. I thought about when my mother fumed for hours in Shanghai over my decision to wash some clothes. I have to think now about how unhappy she must have been as a person.

***
There are ways in which I don't mind becoming my mother. On the trip, the others consumed a massive amount of bottled water (I just don't really drink water*; Jay wonders if I'm sure I'm not a witch). In Albania and Montenegro, there was nowhere to recycle the bottles, so we essentially hauled a miniature pacific garbage patch from Tirana to Dubrovnik.

*I hydrate via food, tea, and coffee. There was mostly thimble coffee to be had (just as there was a lot of Italian food, there was an Italian sense of coffee), which was fine in terms of strength but I often wanted more in the way of hydration.

*** 

My mother would have loved Twitter, given her penchant for complaint letters. I’ve used Twitter countless times to resolve disputes with companies. Unlike my mother, I don’t enjoy the fight; I'm just there to get the problem solved. By the time I turn to Twitter, something has gone egregiously wrong. Cases in point: 

(1) My power company missed its deadline (and, it turns out, gave up altogether) on installing my net meter, precluding me from activating my solar panels in time for a scorching weekend. Tweeting at them got their attention; they prioritized my case and comped my power for that month (as well they should have). Who knows how long it would have taken them to do their job had I not publicly shamed them? 

(2) My health insurer responded to my inquiry about the epipen recall (which they wrote me to inquire about) with a message to someone else, and then ignored me altogether when I replied to let them know their message was meant for someone else. With that kind of customer service, what do you do without Twitter? Twitter got them on the case; they claimed to be horrified and wrote to say that they coached some people. 

(3) My internet company has failed to provide internet for the better part of the week, notwithstanding two three conversations with India. Twitter to the rescue. It’s the only reason I’m able to write to you today. After conversation #3, in which the customer service rep could not understand why I could not be home for a four-hour chunk in the middle of the day, I took to Twitter again (and note that they only took up my ticket, though it'd been several days, after I took to Twitter after conversation #2). So she was going to send someone to my place on Saturday from 11-3. I expressed my frustration on Twitter, and someone came by earlier this evening. The window was 5:15-6:30 (dude was almost an hour late, but I can deal with having had to leave work an hour earlier than I actually needed to; I could not have dealt with having taken a half-day off).

I could go on, but you get my point: here are companies behaving badly, failing to meet their commitments to their customers. What accountability is there? My mother used to love to have me write flowing, angry letters. I just want to get my issue resolved, and hopefully deter them from failing other customers. This one’s a toss-up: is this a way in which I am becoming my mother?

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