The Teasing Tourist

I am sure most of us have done this at some point or the other during our travels to different cities.

Whenever I am looking to book a hotel in a foreign city that I plan to visit, besides looking for something within my budget, I look for a place that is in the center of the city for the obvious reasons. More often than not, the city center is also the financial center or the central business district.

So eventually, there comes an afternoon during the trip, when I have some buffer time between my morning and evening plans, and I decide to just take a walk around the neighborhood. That is when I end up in the business district in the middle of a weekday, wearing my shorts and an orange scarf.

On the recent trip to San Francisco, I decided to kill time walking through China Town, which was right next door from the hotel. However, living in Singapore for the past four years ensured that I got bored after walking one block. So I took a turn and started walking away. (The great advantage of the new world’s blocks is that one can take turns in a new city and not get lost)That is how I reached the financial district at around five in the evening.

So here I am, in my casual jacket slinging the baby in a carrier and leisurely strolling amidst smartly dressed men and women who are walking at a pace that means business. While I was there, I felt the odd one out. I kept thinking of the life those people led, and how it would be to be working in their city and so on. Sometimes, I heard terms that I know from my area of work and was almost tempted to turn around and ask “Which company do you work in?” But who would take a tourist with a baby seriously? So, I kept walking, clicking grey pictures of concrete and glass.

Cut to the present day.

This morning, when I was waiting at the traffic light opposite my workplace, I saw a couple in shorts and holiday shirts, pushing a toddler in a stroller. My first thought was “What are they doing here?!” But I quickly realized. They were just like me – a teasing tourist, who (often deliberately) takes one wrong turn to hit the office area for maybe a glimpse of the city’s life or maybe a shortcut to the train station.

Once I got thinking, it all came flooding back. How often have I seen a guy with a bag-pack confusingly going through the menu at my usual lunch place in the CBD or a lady standing at the busy cross-section, craning her neck and snapping pictures of the tall business towers? When I see them, I am jealous of their off time. But when I was a teasing tourist in Bangkok, Vancouver, or Tokyo, I was strangely dissatisfied and kept trying to imagine how it would be to be one of those busy workers that I was surrounded by.

The green grass on the other side is always tempting me; for I am a workhorse who likes her holidays.

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