A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
I once bumped into a relieving teacher from my primary school while on holiday. I didn't say hi.
There was a feeling of moderate guilt, but my main memory was of being so thrown by the whole thing that I didn't know what to do. Until that fateful Mangawhai Heads day as a 12-year-old, I'd not felt the jumble of emotions that hit you when you bump into someone you know while on holiday.
The initial surprise is often followed by awkwardness: will you now have to hang out with them every day of your vacation even if you don't really know them that well? Will you stop for a proper conversation — possibly involving food and/or beverages — or will you just do a passing "hi"? But while a passing "hi" may be appropriate if you cross paths at the Te Atatu Peninsula Countdown, does it really cut it if you're overseas?
Orin this case, Mangawhai Heads, outside the mini-golf course, 1994. So I hid in the bushes until she'd passed by, staggered at the coincidence that two people connected to dear old Colwill Primary School in West Auckland could find themselves on holiday at the same place at the same time. And that's with Mangawhai being a mere 90 minutes away.
Imagine what the awkward-level is like when you're overseas. I know a couple who bumped into semi-friends of theirs in a small village in the south of France. What are the chances? Two couples from New Zealand both find themselves (pre-the social media era) in a non-touristy dot of a town on the other side of the world at the same precise moment in history. Surely that warrants a meal at the very least, and possibility even a meal plus a catch up the following day. At least!
But no! Despite a decent-ish friendship back home, it wasn't strong enough for more than a five-minute chit-chat of "Wow, what are the odds? Whereabouts are you guys staying? Oh well, see you later."
My strangest encounter came in Fiji several years back. While waiting in line at Customs, I spotted someone I hadn't seen since primary school. I was 90 per cent certain of who it was and plucking up some courage, I said hello, ensuring I said my full name in case they didn't recognise me. Relief — it was them. Further relief, they remembered me and a good little chat ensued. Indeed, that chat became even livelier when we realised we were staying at the same resort. "You wouldn't read about it!" I probably said, before suggesting we shared a taxi there.
Given it was a one-hour drive from the airport, this made total sense and I offered to halve the cost despite there being two of them and one of me. My old chum shot a look to her partner, the partner — with fire in their eyes — mentioned something unconvincing about their cab already being booked and therefore incapable of taking an extra passenger, and my bright idea of a ride share was quashed.
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Pretending I fully understood and with our conversation now deflated of all its reminiscing urgency, we made our way through Customs and into our separate taxis. What followed was a seething hour through the Fijian countryside with the two taxis driving in a friendless convoy. With it being clear the partner had not wanted any outsider butting in on their romantic couples' holiday, we wasted petrol, money and basic humanity by taking two cars to the same destination.
Even my taxi driver couldn't understand why they didn't offer me a seat and it's fair to say check-in at the resort was the opposite of comfortable:
"How was the trip from the airport?"
"Just the same as theirs', only twice the cost".
Whether I actually said that to the staff is moot, but perhaps it was karma for hiding from that relieving teacher back in the 90s. What if she'd seen me and had wanted to talk to that nice little geek Timmy Roxborogh? Only Timmy Roxborogh is cowering in a flax bush with his polar fleece and gigantic glasses poking through. Forgive me!
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com