Press-Republican

FYI...

September 5, 2013

Picturing the photo-free vacation

This is Scotland, and I am tasting Scotches. Very fine ones, in fact. I should be happy. Even giddy. But there's a problem. I can't even see the drams - much less sip any.

Smartphones have suddenly sprouted like shiny bamboo shoots. People in my tour group are squeezing in front of me and elbowing me out of the way.

There's a woman with not one but two phones happily clicking away. A man wearing tweed is hopping as he snaps, which blocks a taller man behind him. I watch the tall guy drag over a chair from somewhere and begin shooting what has to be a hawk's-eye view of the scene.

Is the Duchess of Cambridge here? No, what the flashes are highlighting is, well, whisky. Images of a desk clerk pouring. Pictures of a drink.

As quickly as I can, I grab my camera, set the settings, flip on the flash, and - for reasons I'm not sure of - something makes me stop. Just this once, I'm not quite up for battle. I slink over to a plate of scones.

What's going on? The single-malt shot: It will not be mine.

Everyone else will snag much better images than I will. They'll be grabbing Facebook traffic the very second they post them.

I will drink my unrecorded whisky in disgrace.

When it comes to taking photos, I almost always try hard. I dance a samba the minute I'm lucky enough to reel a good shot in. But every once in a while, I have an intrusive thought: How many tidbits from a vacation does a traveler need?

I've started to think that snapping strings of pictures is a kind of nervous tic. A way to box up travel, show it off and take it safely home. It seems like the only convincing reason for a world that suddenly appears bored with plain old experience (yawn, another day in Rome) until the instant it's captured.

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