I was recently asked which literary character I’d most like to travel with. A simple question for some. My problem is, while I’d love to spend time with any number of my favorite literary characters, I’m not a fan of travelling.
I’m a poor excuse for a Canadian. While the rest of the country is strapping on sandals so they can trek around foreign lands and live like the locals, I’m hiding in my backyard under a UV umbrella, praying my family won’t suggest a vacation. Like Macon Leary from Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist, my motto is, “Nothing’s home, really.” I bucket and bob my way through each journey braced for uncooked chicken, empty toilet paper rolls and venom with no known antidote.
With Macon Leary at my side, however, things might be different. He would know which hotel has had complaints about bedbugs. Or where to pick up pasteurized milk for my Cheerios. He’d have a fastidious system for laundering our clothes—though, if he offered to stomp on mine in the shower to save time, I’d politely decline. In exchange for this, I would acquiesce when he decided, a day or two into our week-long sojourn, that we were holidayed out and needed to hightail it home.
The only trouble I could foresee would be on the plane. Macon approves of flying so long as his seatmates keep to themselves. He is not above donning a headset and listening to a blank CD in the name of social insulation. But what Macon might not realize is that his role as my seatmate would be to assure me that every bump and rumble, every variation in velocity or altitude, is not a sign of certain death. That the hissing sound from the back is not a lethal chink in the plane’s underbelly, but the sound of a toilet flushing. His only real defense would be dropping his chin into his literary standby, Miss MacIntosh, My Darling.
I just hope he doesn’t mind if I read over his shoulder.
What about you – which literary figure would you most like to travel with?
P.S. If any of you are in the Kitchener-Waterloo area today, I’ll be reading at Wordsworth Books at 2 pm with Zoe Whittall.