“Well, are you sick of us old people yet?”
I turn my head to the right, “No way!”
“Are you sure?” he asks, squinting a little.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
We’re eight days into the trip with thirty 65+ year olds and this is about the seventh time someone has asked me. At first, I have to fake it, saying through clenched teeth, “Oh, no, it’s fine,” but by day eight, I’m having the time of my life, eating reindeer, legally drinking wine (but everyone thinks otherwise), and bonding with my grandfather over a poker game.
The first couple of days involve a lot of flying and checking into new hotels and let me tell you, with thirty old people, this is no quick task. No one can really hear that well, so information literally passes from one person to the next. Half of the group stands around, waiting for directions, while the other half is confused and shouting across the lobby to one another, but of course they can’t really hear each other. My mom and I look at each other and silently agree that we could have already converted money, gotten on the bus, and be checked into our hotel by now. But, here we are, standing by the baggage claim for half an hour waiting for everything to get organized.
Typically, I like to get things done as efficiently as possible. For instance, I’ll do the dishes while dinner is still cooking. Brush my teeth in the shower. Even check Facebook on my phone while Pinterest loads on my computer. I don’t go as far as doing my makeup in the car, but I like to multi-task.
This is not the crowd for multi-tasking and efficiency. On our tour of Helsinki, the guide tells us, “The walk up to the church is about eight minutes, so I’ll give you fifteen.” I want to rip my hair out. She continues to say at a different location, “Please don’t go up the stairs to the church; you won’t make it back to the bus in time.” There’s about two flights worth that take me roughly sixty seconds to ascend. What the hell am I doing here?
Every day I adjust a little more to this slower pace, sighing in frustration less and less every time we transition. Walking at half my normal pace lets me take in the important details that writers survive on: the way norwegian seagulls land on a traditional slate roof, how my grandmother talks about knee surgery (as if she were a middle aged woman casually speaking of her ongoing plastic surgery), the appalling amount of socks and sandals. Life in the slow lane isn’t so bad.
Slowing down in its most basic form (walking, transferring information, remembering new instructions) is really opening my eyes. What started out as irritation has developed into such intense inspiration that I can hardly sit still. Finally, I know what I need to do to get my business started. I can’t stop writing. And I’m wittier and happier than I’ve been in many months. Half way through this trip my perspective has done a full 180, leaving me smiling at every passing passenger and turning my crankiness into appreciation for every leisurely moment. I guess these old farts ain’t so bad.