I was in Washington D.C. last week on behalf of the day job. I hadn’t been in almost 2½ years after having gone at least quarterly since 2017, and I was dismayed at how much I have lost the rhythm of travel.
Prior to the pandemic, I could think on Sunday morning, “OK, gotta go to D.C. this week” and pretty much everything after that happened on autopilot. Packing, getting to and through airports, and ground transport to a hotel on the far side took roughly the same amount of active, engaged thought as going to mail a letter and get milk.
Whole different story last month. I had to remember all the things. When do I need my ID? When is it just boarding pass? What can I put in a checked bag? What goes in a carry-on? Does Pre-Check mean I don’t have to take my shoes off? Is Rusty still in the Navy? It was exhausting.
D.C. has some new things, too. Their weather is just a little bit warmer than ours, and so the colleagues I was with were renting scooters to commute from the hotel to the conference. Those sort of motorized scooters that look like the toy kind but are motorized somehow? They’re more robust than razor scooters, but the same shape. You swipe a credit card and off you go into the bike lanes. Commuting in bike lanes via scooter looked like a lot of fun, and I seriously considered swiping a credit card of my own and giving it a go. What stopped me was imagining a scenario in which I, a middle-aged man who does not know how to ride a motorized scooter, injured myself significantly by virtue of not knowing that I do not know how to ride a motorized scooter. In this thought experiment, I variously arrived at either the emergency room or the conference room, lucid but bedraggled and in significant pain, and in both cases among the first questions from either medical staff or my colleagues would, rightly, have been “What were you thinking?”
In neither case was I able to produce a satisfactory answer to their very reasonable question, so I walked. My (younger) colleagues were unable to process this decision. They were sorely disappointed I did not choose to learn how to ride a glorified skateboard on Connecticut Avenue at rush hour.
I think there’s a sliding scale of admiration for such things, and I am in the age-defying sweet spot. Consider the hangover: A couple of weeks ago I played golf with the usual floating rep company and one of us showed up confessing to a hangover. We were quite pleased for him! Look at this old guy, going out and getting it done on a Saturday night to such a degree that he was feeling it on Sunday. A couple years ago (or if this were a regular occurrence) we might have chided him. Ten years before that the Sunday foursome without four hangovers was rare, but we’d have treated them with hairs from the dogs. A few years from now we will be fully into “What were you thinking? You’re lucky to have survived!” which is the last stage before someone reporting a hangover is presumed to be describing the effect of having had a cup of regular coffee after 2 p.m. the previous day. Right now, though, it’s still seen as a gentle and charming rage against the dying of the light, which sometimes it might even be.
Mostly, though, I think it’s forgetting if you’ve had two Manhattans, three, or four. Or maybe it’s not remembering the cocktails when you think, “I could drink a glass of wine.”
The memory is the first thing to go, y’know. Don’t sweat it, fellow kids: As long as you don’t drink and scoot, you’ll be fine.