Of Life of Pi tigers

… Or, please act like you care.

Look, I know that ultimately I’m just an employee who is there mostly for driving purposes to get these internationals from Point A to Point B and back again in one piece. It’s not like anyone falls for The Help in real life. I get paid, they go forward to their lives, we forget each other and move on.

That’s the theory, but I’m an emotional guy (who hides it well) and every time someone simply leaves at the end of a tour without acting like they care about saying a proper goodbye it breaks my heart that little bit more.

A few years ago the movie Life of Pi was the rage. It was a mystical tale of a young man trapped on a raft with a man-eating tiger and yet they develop a metaphysical understanding that leads to them not killing each other. But at the end of this otherworldly journey the tiger sees land in the distance, jumps off the raft and runs off into the forest without looking back at his companion on the raft, the main narrator, Pi.

The lack of goodbye affects the narrator hugely, and it affected my partner watching it. Painful as they may be, goodbyes are necessary for emotional closure, she said. You can’t just have someone piss off on you, it tears you apart and you don’t heal.

Back to my mundane touring, which does not happen on questionable rafts but rather questionable company vans. Almost every tour of mine involves an entire half-day of me trying to, at minimum, be positive towards the people who are in my charge for half a day of our finite lives.

Sometimes it works and we gel and sometimes it doesn’t and things are more functional. But these days almost always end with tired people leaving the van for the hotel without much of a commiseration about our parting. On the drive home they’d been stuck, and now they were free.

I can take it, but only just. It pretty much rams home my lack of importance in the scheme of things.

The tourist I’ve ever had the most personalised relationship with was Maria, a Greek-Quebequoise with whom I chatted for most of the day as a person (as an equal? pushing it)rather than the measured talk I usually do. But by 7pm she was tired, had a million other things to do before she would leave Melbourne the next day, and had had enough.

I told her about the Life of Pi tiger analogy as it related to tourism goodbyes. I was all but begging her to act like she gave a shit when she would soon leave, at least smile or something. It was a naked plea for anyone with some emotional intelligence. Soon afterwards she said a subdued thanky/goodbye and I, equally subdued, replied, “It’s been fun.” She jumped out of the van and did not look back.

There was one young man from London, a Lebanese-Englishman named Mohammad, who had a Polish-English wife, Johanna. This was in December. When I got out of the van and waited for them to get out, he stood around like he thought, It can’t just end like this. I wanted to ask for contact details but thought it was too forward for my position, and I didn’t express my desire for it to all go on. So we parted in the usual way. But I loved him for his hesitation, for being the only one who thought of me as a person and not an employee.


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