As some of you may have realised, I’m rather behind in relaying my travel exploits. While I do aim for consecutivity (yep, I made that word up), I have been jumping around a tad in my story-telling. As a result, I have described my newfound celebrity in Asheville, but have failed to talk about my weeks in Washington, DC and Charleston, which occurred before Asheville.
Whoops. Let’s call it playing with the space-time continuum.
Part of my current hasty backtracking to Washington, DC must, of course, be attributed to the encouragement of Mr. A.ActuarialTraveller, who has been waiting not altogether patiently for his dashing person to appear on these pages.
However, seeing as he managed to ask me to be his bride and call me a hussy and a cat lady in the same night, you can’t really blame a girl for being not altogether sure how to talk about him.
In all honesty, it was entirely lovely, A.ActuarialTraveller, to find in you a friend whom I felt comfortable with and who made the evenings at DC’s Hostelling International so much fun. Also, you’re awesome for buying a HungryMan frozen dinner (although I did eat two ice-cream cups in the space of half an hour on the same night). I even forgive you for sleeping in on Christmas Day and almost making us miss our pre-paid session of Sherlock Holmes. After all, a few days later I lost 40 minutes travelling on the wrong bus before getting caught up talking chocolate with a like-minded lady, thereby turning up late to our Spy Museum rendezvous. So I’m calling it even. Yes?
Speaking of the International Spy Museum, it’s a must-do. In fact, our visit to it is partly why this post qualifies for the Super Fun Times Galore category. The depth of information about espionage found in the exhibition proper was astounding, and I’m slightly concerned to know that everything in my room right now could have a bug in it. I don’t think I want to be a spy.
The moments when I truly realised I would far better suit a behind-the-scenes espionage-y analyst job rather than real-world spying came during A.ActuarialTraveller’s and my foray into Operation Spy, a one-hour “live-action spy adventure”wherein you undertake a spy mission in the hopes of recovering a nuclear weapon, uncovering blackmail, and saving the world.
My first indication of being less-than-spy-material came when, after disabling an alarm system, our group of 15 moved into a politician’s room to search for incriminating evidence. A.ActuarialTraveller immediately disabled the safe and called out to the 13 strangers in the room to look for a wrench, while I just ambled around turning over cushions and looking on with amusement at everyone else scurrying around.
More telling, though, was the point at which A.ActuarialTraveller joined the people voting to send in Black Ops to recover the weapon (because, I believe he said, “Black Ops are cool”), while I stood with the people who wanted to call the Prime Minister of the country we’d snuck into (because, as I said, “I think he ought to know what’s going on in his country). Yep, colour me adventurous.
To sum things up, we stopped the nuclear weapon getting into the wrong hands, saved the world, and if you ever want someone to go fight crime and crack into safes, give A.ActuarialTraveller a call. If you want someone to stay underground breaking codes and rustling up berry compote topped with gingersnap meringue? Call me.
(Also, big respect to our tour guide/Operation Spy leader. He coped really well with the several small children in our group who, in not being old enough to comprehend the preordained nature of the videos/lie detectors/overheard conversations involved in the “mission”, tended to slow proceedings down with their strong convictions about what should happen next. Still, those kids made it more amusing for me.)
4:15pm: Return to room in hostel after a day wandering around DC.
4:20pm: Eat chocolate over a few chapters of Cold Comfort Farm.
4:40pm: Decide to do washing now, so that it will be finished by 6pm and you can pack before dinner.
4:45pm: Arrive at hostel front desk with $5 note in hand to get change for the washing machine. Get stuck behind a confused conversation occuring between a guest talking in Euros and a worker talking in dollars.
5:00pm: Finally get change.
5:03pm: Arrive in basement laundry room, see that there are hardly any products in the detergent dispenser.
5:04pm: Buy detergent. Realise it isn’t detergent. It’s bleach. Realise the only thing in the machine is bleach. Have other girl in laundry room offer to buy detergent from the machine and share it with you. Point out to her that there is no detergent.
5:06pm: Walk up with other girl to front desk.
5:10pm: Get told by front desk worker that they don’t sell detergent. (Um… okay.) Get told there’s a pharmacy a few blocks away that does. Confuse worker with the bleach in your hand. He doesn’t understand why there is bleach in the dispenser (neither do I).
5:11pm: Accept worker’s offer to refund you for the bleach. Doesn’t solve detergent problem, which is a problem, because of what you’re wearing and the freezing weather outside (see photo below).
5:12pm: Offer to guard the washing machines and the other girl’s clothes while she goes to buy detergent.
5:15pm: Back in laundry room.
5:25pm: Call parents in Australia. Chat for 20 minutes.
5:45pm: Start to wonder where other girl is. The CVS pharmacy is only two blocks away.
5:47: An Australian couple arrive in laundry room, put their clothes in a machine, and go to the detergent dispenser. You point out the hostel doesn’t sell detergent.
5:48pm: Let’s hear it for griping!
5:50pm: Male Australian says he’ll run to grocery store for detergent.
5:51pm: Nice chat with girl from Cairns.
5:55pm: Still wondering where other girl is.
6:00pm: Aussie man returns. They offer you the detergent. Use it, with grateful thanks.
6:05pm: Unsure what to do about other girl and her clothes.
6:07pm: Reassured by Australians that no one is going to steal someone’s unwashed clothes. Guiltily leave laundry room.
6:30: Return to put clothes in dryer. Other girl’s clothes gone, all washing machines in action. Hope you haven’t built up a debt of negative karma. Remember how you helped a Chinese girl not miss her tour yesterday when she thought it left at 5:50pm and it actually left at 5:15pm (you pointed this out to her at 5:20pm). Hope this balances things out.
And now, for your viewing pleasure… what all the cool kids wear whilst trying to wash as many clothes as possible before embarking on a week-long-hotel-with-no-laundry-stay: