Tripping

“Do you think that we’ll go on the trip too?” said Zoe. “I was just wondering.”

“I usually do,” said Smuel, “because I’m the driver.”

“I know that,” she said. “You know what I mean. The millionaire’s offer, does it include us?” The Millionaire entrepreneur who had visited Open Hearts seniors daycare centre had caused a stir. He had already made a $25,000 donation, and offered to fund the furnishing of the hidden basement, and had now said that he would fund the seniors’ annual trip. The details had yet to be formally announced, but there was much excitement.

“Let’s ask Mr Amin,” said Smuel. “He’s bound to know.”

Mr Amin was in his office trying to use his desktop. Despite having once been Northern India’s Minister of Culture, the Centre’s manager had never mastered computers. He’d once had an office full of clerical staff, so why bother? But today he needed to research holiday logistics – how to get there, where to stay, what to see, what to eat, and in particular for seniors: first aid, mobility, access, tea shop and toilet locations. “Yes, yes, come in,” he said, turning his back on his computer with relief. “Do you need me for something? Oh, the annual trip? Yes Mr. Daniel has offered us an exciting opportunity. He has offered $10,000 each, to a maximum of thirty clients, to undertake the holiday of a lifetime.”

“Ten thousand each!” Zoe and Smuel said together. “What for?”

“As I said, for the holiday of a lifetime. However he has specified conditions. People must choose either a one year independent adventure, or a one week luxury trip.” Zoe tried to interrupt, but he continued. “Yes, yes, a one week luxury trip with first class flights, five-star cruise, and champagne dinners. The independent adventure involves overland travel and backpacking in Africa and Asia. Everybody at the Centre must vote and the activity with the most votes wins.”

“Why is he doing this?” said Smuel. Daniel had seemed like a nice guy when he’d visited last month, but what was his real agenda? “No one just gives away money like that to a bunch of unknown old folks. Why wouldn’t he use that cash to go on holiday himself?”

Mr Amin said, “Ah, maybe you don’t know how Mr. Daniel makes his money. He runs a TV production company. This is his latest reality project. He will film the adventures for broadcast. So you see it is an exchange really, and in my view win-win. What do you think about that?”

“It sounds pretty good to me,” said Smuel. Zoe nodded in agreement. “But will we be going too?”

“I thought you may wish to know that. Smuel you usually do, and Zoe you could if you wanted to but have never asked. My view is that you are known to the clients, they like and trust you, and you will surely be helpful to them whichever holiday they choose. I can’t guarantee it, but hope that you will also be considered. Certainly if we don’t have thirty volunteers, you will go. Which holiday would you prefer, Smuel?”

Smuel chose the one year rough adventure, saying, “It’s a chance to make the most of life.” Zoe however chose the one week luxury trip, saying, “I’d like to do it in style.”

Mr. Amin said, “Well, here at Open Hearts we run one of the world’s few genuine democracies. We will let the people decide.”

Both Smuel and Zoe began canvassing support immediately. It seemed that there was a straight male-female split. Albert, James and their buddies wanted to be warriors aged sixty, seventy, even eighty-plus, shouldering backpacks, travelling on smelly buses and on crowded trains, sharing their rooms with bedbugs and strangers, and visiting places they’d never imagined like Egypt and Ethiopia. Even if they died en route they’d be proud of their last moments. Irene, Gemma, and the girls wished to be elegant and pampered. They wanted china plates and silver cutlery, Egyptian cotton sheets, rooms with views, and young men in uniforms saluting them. They didn’t want their holiday to kill them as they wanted to remember it for the rest of their lives.

The vote was scheduled for Friday but on Thursday Mr Amin received a call from Daniel’s PA. Daniel was very sorry, she said, but the production deal had fallen through and funding for the holiday was no longer possible. Oh well, thought Mr Amin, maybe there was no one year trip, and no one week trip either, but they could still manage a one day trip. He returned to his computer. Hunting and pecking at keys he managed to type in “Picnic spots near Lucerne.”

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