They’re All Behaving Crackers

, , , , | Hopeless | February 2, 2018

(My wife and I take a coach tour up to the vineyards in Sonoma. It’s a Tuesday, so the bus, which leaves at 7:30 am, is full of pensioners, and us. The tour guide is obviously surprised to see us, but all is well once we explain that we’re on “vacation” for our honeymoon. He seats us near the front of the bus so we get a good view. On the way to the vineyards, we stop for a rest and coffee break in a small town, where the tour guide informs us:)

Tour Guide: “This where you buy your crackers. Crackers are REALLY expensive at the vineyards. You need to buy crackers here. HERE.”

(We’ve never been asked to provide our own crackers at a wine tasting before, but all the other patrons seem keen, so we follow along, and buy a small packet of eight crackers. As we get back on the bus every one of the pensioners is struggling under the sheer weight of the number of crackers that they’ve bought. Most have more than ten large packs each. More than you could reasonably eat in a month. I’m starting to wonder if crackers are a form of currency in wine country, like cigarettes in prison. Half an hour later we arrive at the first vineyard. As the bus stops, the other passengers are already barging each other out of the way, trying to get off first. Even though we’re at the front, no one allows us to get off until everyone has gone past us. Of course, they’re all rushing for the bathroom. Not a problem. Some older people need to use the facilities more regularly than most. By the time we get into the visitor center, the queue has formed, and they’re all arguing with each other:)

Pensioner #1: “I had two coffees back in town. Let me go first.”

Pensioner #2: “I had bowel cancer. I need to be given priority!”

Pensioner #3: “I’ve GOT bowel cancer right now. I need priority!”

(We make a mental note to make sure we’re off the bus quickly at the next stop, which is a larger vineyard that also has a restaurant as part of the visitor centre. I get into the bathroom ahead of the pensioners; there is only one cubicle, and two urinals. A man and a young boy enter behind me, and go into the cubicle. As I’m washing my hands, the mob of pensioners descends. They begin banging on the door to the cubicle.)

Pensioner #1:  “Get out. I’m a senior citizen. I need this more than you!”

(Then, the in-fighting starts again.)

Pensioner #2: “Hey, I told ya, I’ve got cancer. I need to use the cubicle.”

Pensioner #3: “We’ve all got cancer, buddy. Get back in line.”

(The man in the cubicle shouts that he is in there with his son, and will be out in a minute.)

Pensioner #1: “Hurry up!”

Pensioner #2: “I’m next.”

Pensioner #3: “No way. You went ahead of me at the last winery.”

(There’s jostling. Then pushing. I manage to squeeze past them to exit. They continue pounding on the door to the cubicle, as if that will make the little boy speed up. I find the tour guide chatting to the manager of the restaurant, and explain what’s happening. They both roll their eyes.)

Manager: “It’s always the Tuesday tour, ain’t it?”

(He walks back and shouts at the top of his voice for the seniors to behave themselves. The poor little boy comes out but has clearly been crying. The manager takes them up to the bar, and beckons my wife and me over as well.)

Manager: “All you guys, anything you want, it’s on the house today.”

Me: “Oh, that’s not necessary—”

Manager: “No, I insist. You’re visitors to this fine state of ours, and I want to make sure you have the best time.”

(We ordered a sharing platter starter, for which he insisted on doubling all the portions, including the wines, then gifted us a bottle to take home with us. After lunch there was another winery to visit, but the seniors were much better behaved this time. We were back by six pm, and watched as they all left the bus with their unopened boxes of crackers. I don’t think anyone had more than about four, anyway. Even though that was eight years ago, I still buy a bottle of the wine from the vineyard that made us so welcome, every time I see it. They do a mean Lodi Zinfandel.)

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