I was driving last week, as you would know from my near constant complaints about the reckless drivers. However I was thinking of something else as I unpacked my overnight bag and thanking God for delivering me safely at home. Our lives have become rather complicated these days with all the gadgets we carry along when travelling. And I wonder if this is good or bad or even necessary to look like a pack mule when leaving the house.
Where are the days when your entire holiday baggage consisted of one sleeping bag without a pillow? Your rucksack or boot could be a nice enough pillow, thank you very much and pass the beer mate. Or the times when you did not need a fancy GPS to navigate your way to the beach. In those days you stopped at a garage, like in a fuel station, and asked where to go. If they lied to you the next stop is the Police Station who should know and take pity on you if your hair was short enough and you showed the proper respect. You also learned to listen very well to your host explaining on the landline, no such thing as mobiles, on where you should go and would learn to either listen to your wife (she knows best) or read a map or both.
Now luckily my late wife was a walking compass and always knew where she was going and tagging me along. I was so astonished at her navigation skills that I am still writing about it in my books. In our African male culture a woman is not really listened to when navigating with the result that we men get lost quite often. Obviously, no man will admit to this and merely shrugs explaining (seriously talking crap) that he wants to explore the freedom of the road or that perhaps the scenic route ain't that bad after all. If smart the wife will smirk knowingly and suggest that you turn left and then right and right again and voila, you have arrived. She may even make you feel good during the process, a recipe for a long and happy marriage.
I just love smart women. I am the type (rather rare according to some of my female friends) who falls in love with my wife's intellectual side first and foremost. Why I would not know. Perhaps I am not that smart myself and know my limitations in life but unless able to talk to her for hours and hours I will get bored and leave. So having had a woman as smart as Melissa was just great to me. That she could navigate her way in a strange country where we drive on the right side, that is the left side with the steering wheel on the right, was impressive. I also soon learned that she would have googled anything and everything before we got to the place and well able to judge whether I am smart or just pretending to be smart. Hence I googled it too, just to be on the same wave length. Sometimes I do think that we would have produced smart kids and I miss them...I often wonder what they would have looked like. With her looks I am sure quite agreeable.
She could also pack an incredible amount of stuff into small bags which brings me back to our topic of not traveling light anymore. These days we take the GPS with as the maps had long since been consigned to the rubbish bin. And the GPS is not only for the vehicle but also in handheld mode if possible. That I get as I recollect walking in London for hours searching the South African Consul before being kicked out for an uncalled for attack on me in Buckingham Palace. The damn place (Buckingham Palace and London) looks the same with horrible lonely trees (they tried to speak to me in Pommy and ignored my Afrikaans replies) standing around. And whatever Pakistani, now a distinguished Pommy Gent living on benefits, you asked for directions would direct you to the other end of where you wanted to go. I only got saved by taking a taxi back at vast expense and never left the hotel again. That was in the days before handheld GPS systems so I get this, it would have saved me a lot of walking and you reading about it.
Hence to be sure, a GPS is the best thing after flushing toilets and we have to thank that great American Ronald Reagan (my late wife rated him with John Wayne as her heroes) for GPS. It was he who released GPS onto the public after South Korean flight 007 (what an ironic number) got shot down in 1983 for straying into Soviet airspace. That caused the system to become publicly available and refined to what it is today. So we need the GPS and then, of course, we need the charger and the mental capacity to ensure it does not take us via the shortest but most dangerous routes. That happens often too, tourists and other blindly following the GPS into areas where they get killed, raped or robbed or all of those things.
On a lighter note, the same complexity happened over time with that good old tradition, the South African braai (barbecue). It is such a big event in our lives that I often write about it in my books and made very sure Melissa experienced it when she was here. There is no such thing as barbecuing burger patties with McDonald's chips (fries) in this country. That is not a barbecue in our eyes. In fact I am not sure what it is I admit since I never got the chance to experience it. No, we have genuine meat like steak, chops, ribs, wors (sausage) and salads if down in the Colony (Cape Town) and pap (maize porridge) and sheba (an onion tomatoe relish) if in the Transvaal (Gauteng). Chicken and fish were also left to weirdos with thin arms and no chest hair. You have to see it to believe it and these days you even use a proper knife instead of an Okapi (traditional German made pocket knife).
Women are also allowed at the fire which is unheard off in the old days. They should be in the kitchen talking to their mates who look like them. They may join the men afterwards but these days, blah, no such thing. They are there wearing their silly rugby jerseys and talk about dirty scrumming techniques as if they would know anything about grabbing your oppo by the unmentionables or smearing his eyes with deep heat when the ref is kept busy by someone else. They just don't get how complicate such behaviour is to the first attempt (men). I usually just shake my head and thank God she never understood the manly game of rugby or cricket and had no desire to do so either. In return all I needed to know is that we supported the Miami Dolphins and that was that.
There was a time in my life when the braais were uncomplicated affairs. You got invited and brought a crate of beer, a piece of wors (sausage) and the rest was a bit of a blur to be honest. These days it is not like that. If you have a wife (a gift from God I assure you) she would ask "what salad, what wine, what meat, when we leaving, when we coming home, what about the kids." If you are a widower like me you would ask the same in terms of what salad and wine to bring with to show your late wife had a positive influence. And yes your mobile goes with and your GPS and your laptop or IPad rubbish. After all, you have to be available (why?) all the time or you have to show someone this or that.
Where have the old uncomplicated days gone to? Days when I needed almost nothing when traveling except the desire to get where I wanted to be and money for gasoline. Days when life was easier and much less complicated than now and I could disappear for a few days or weeks even. I wish I could go back.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.