Monday, July 15, 2013

Aliens Among Us

The first thing you notice about them is the smell. A sweet, cloying mixture of hair shampoo, body wash, and perfume. Then, it is the extraordinarily clean – and frequently unsuitable – clothes. After that, the vacant almost catatonic look on their faces, eyes blind to the supremacy of nature around them as they push past you on the trail, unaware or uncaring that you have a large backpack on your back, have clearly been walking all day, and, the polite thing to do would be to stand aside so that the backpack doesn't jostle both of you off the narrow trail. The final, and most striking attribute is their apparent lack of coordination and proprioception. No matter how easy and level the trail, they struggle to negotiate it with any kind of grace. They wobble from side to side, stumble, stagger and generally lurch along like a dog who has suddenly lost three of four limbs. Walrus on land have more grace than the average Australian tourist.

A rather condemnatory description, but, on every walk I go on in Australia, these are the thoughts that run through my head as we get within 500 metres of the car park and begin to encounter the average Australian tourist. Strangely, they never seem to see any of the beauty of nature – which presumably they have come to see – around them. Their faces have either a stunning vacuity or, more commonly, a look of stoic endurance as if they just cannot wait for this torture to be over.

I have come to see them as separate species from mine. They smell, look and act different – surely enough of a taxonomic deviation to make us from at least another species if not another genus. They smell of products not made in nature, they are slightly, moderately, or grossly overweight, their bodies lack any form of musculature and bipedal transport is clearly not their native mode of movement. It simply is not possible that we both represent homo sapiens. One of us is an imposter.

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