My wife Amy recently retired from her teaching career, helping south Texas high school students to appreciate the French language and culture. During my 30-odd years of professional life, I did lots of different things, but I never was quite that selfless or impervious to insult. She loves everything French, though, and was able to endure school-district politics, parents who just couldn’t believe that little Johnny or Jane could ever misbehave in class, and receiving the blame for everything from failing grades to students engaging in behavior in her classroom that would get you a prison term on the street. She put up with all of it for the 10% of her time she actually got to teach French, and for those students whose lives she not only was able to change for the better, but who were able to return the favor and change her life as well.
She retired so we could spend more time together, and do some traveling before it becomes too complex and difficult. Just in the last few months, we’re been to DC twice, Minnesota, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, and on a driving tour of south Texas. We’ve been on day trips to everyplace within a day’s drive of home that has Civil War era honored dead buried there, and we’ve trespassed on more private land than a person really ought to in rural Texas. (We’ve met some really nice people that way, though, and haven’t been shot at once, even with rock salt).
The only real difficulty we’ve had so far has been going through security checkpoints in airports. Everything takes a little doing before you get the bugs worked out, and although I spent years and over 1 million frequent flyer miles traveling by air while I was working, I usually traveled alone and without PD. It’s different now. I have a DBS implant, and I’m not supposed to go through the airport metal detectors with it. I’m not sure what would happen if I did. It probably involves flames and sparks, and if there’s even a chance that the flames/sparks would be coming from my head and chest, I want no part of it.
I have to tell the TSA agents at the checkpoint that I “have an implanted medical device.” The usual response is some variation of “Huh?” but I’ve received the entire spectrum of responses, from “I understand. How would you like to handle it?” to “Male assist for a strip-search, and bring the BIG periscope!” Once, a security guard in the Marrakech airport asked me to remove the implant, and got snarky when I told him it would be difficult and would probably kill me. He was inclined to just press on and take the chance, but backed off when I asked for some towels to mop up the blood. Coward.
It’s much easier to navigate the checkpoint as a team, and Amy and I have gained some expertise. No expertise comes without cost, and we have left my wallet, my shoes, my iPhone, my MacBook, my jacket, my cane, my belt, and my self-respect behind. That was just the first time – we’re much better now.
We’ve also tried to take things through the checkpoint that, strictly speaking, we ought not to. I say “we” because I’m a team-oriented kind of guy. “I” have never tried to take a concealed weapon through the checkpoint, but “we” have. Here’s a lesson in logic for you: “we” minus “I” equals…anyone, anyone? All you married men know the answer is “me.” It’s my fault “we” tried to take a kubotan (Google is your friend) through security, because I was the one who gave the damned thing to the female half of “we,” and who failed to remind said female half three times to take it out of our purse. Twice, yes. Three times, no. A clear transgression. We’ll be able to laugh about this in ten years or so. It’s a shame I won’t remember it.
Our travel concerns are somewhat different than in the past, too. I tend to be more startled by sounds than I was pre-PD (about like an infant, truthfully). I also have a tendency to stare, I’m told, and I know I often have the classic “frozen face” of a person with Parkinson’s. These characteristics combine in interesting ways on the street in a large city. Picture this: Amy and I are walking down the street in San Francisco or Washington DC, and I hear someone say, “Hey – Texas boy. I like those boots. Take ‘em off.” I jump, startled by the sound; slowly, I swivel in the direction of the voice; I look at the source of the voice with dead eyes and frozen face, devoid of emotion; I hold the gaze for 30 minutes or so. I’ve been advised that this behavior is provocative and threatening. I don’t see it. A good offense is the best defense, I’ve heard, and it’s certainly offensive. As I mentioned before, “we” don’t carry concealed weapons when we travel, but a dead-fish stare doesn’t set off a metal detector. However, we think it’s a bad idea, so we are currently engaged in an operant conditioning program to eliminate this behavior of ours. If you get my drift. And I think you do.
I’ve been a self-reliant person for most of my life, and although PD is changing that, I’m still a little startled when Amy asks, “do you need to use the bathroom?” when we’re in public. I typically say, “If I needed to use the bathroom, I would currently be using the bathroom, don’t ya think?”
The mere question usually makes me need to use the bathroom, though. It tends to reduce the effect of my haughty self-reliant indignation to rebuff her suggestion, and then rush off to find a restroom. I think she know this; it’s a little travel game we play, along with the “don’t eat that – it’s not good for you” game. Some games you play to win; some you play just for the enjoyment. These games are not like that.
Truthfully, we’re having a blast, and we’re learning to live together under new conditions. These conditions are unusual, but all married couples who have any history to their credit have to do this. And, I can still beat her in a staring contest, so I have that going for me. Which is nice.