Each year when the trees start blossoming, the grass turns green and the spring scents start teasing the nostrils, city dwellers thirsty for recreation in more natural surroundings move out to conquer new territories. These trips remind me more and more of the ancient hunting expeditions organized by our forefathers in the Neander valley and other similar picturesque surroundings. Everything becomes a potential prey: supermarket wares, better view out of hotel windows or even the simple fact of arriving first. A clear deviation from everyday norms becomes apparent even in the earliest stages or expedition preparations.
The hunters’ sanctuary prior to embarking on the perilous journey is of course the supermarket. Arriving at the parking lot all courtesies make place for more primal emotions. No sentiments, no courteous nods. The drivers must prove their exceptional abilities to park their car. If one observes several attempts of various drivers to park their car in a vacant space, a single conclusion can be drawn: the drivers exemplify the spirit of sporting rivalry. Why this particular spot? It doesn’t matter, but jackknifing duels or sneaky spot taking are commonplace views. A word of hard-earned advice: prior to leaving the domicile we should remember to expulse all of our bottled aggression. Go ahead, give in, scream at the coat-hanger, the mirrored cabinet or even your kids. It will not aid in finding a vacant spot (if at all available), it will provide a level of calm and stoicism, however, which can be useful when other more skillful hunters beat us to every single vacant spot.
The adventure continues, inside the supermarket obviously. First the hunters try and scour for a free shopping trolley. A similar pattern to that on the parking lot can be observed here. And once again the rivalry uncovers the most skillful hunters present. After this all important hurdle is crossed, the hunters enter the supermarket only to find that their favourite prey (read preferred brand of beer and hamburgers) is out of stock. Not only do the hunters have to face up to the facts and content themselves with sub-standard products, they also have to stand in gargantuan queues before paying. It is obvious that the more successful hunters once again prove their Darwinian skills and always manage to check out quicker.
Human kind is very resilient, the hunt pack leaders gather their young and enter their cars totally unfazed and looking forward to their nature trip. It is obligatory to not leave the parking place to quickly. This has two reasons. First, the hunting party had to fight hard and strong for the place, therefore they WILL make maximum use of it. Second, there is nothing more satisfactory than watching arriving hunting packs and making them wait for that one spot. Leaving the terrain requires a few loud remarks about the supermarket’s quality of service as well as a few snide remarks about fellow herd leaders wasting valuable time and space.
Stage one is now complete. Stage two – leaving town. This should not be too complicated, but it is. This is caused by other inconsiderate hunting parties with similar intent. All courtesy is once again abandoned, it may in very rare circumstances be offered to those going in the opposite direction, after all, they will not be wasting valuable space in the country side. The friendly sporting rivalry from the supermarket parking lot gives way to real aggression, the hunt is on! The emotions are further stirred by a depressing and never-ending string of traffic updates on the radio.
These barren conditions are faced regularly by these contemporary hunter-gatherers. Even the perspective of a long and arduous drive does not deter the determined vacationers. The prospect of potential views and pleasures cause the hunter’s brain to think about one thing only: Must…reach…target. The emotions, as well as the undying desire of reaching the destination, give the casual onlooker an impression similar to that of watching a Formula 1 transmission. Unfortunately the driving skill oft involved means that the impression soon deteriorates to that of watching kids play at the Legoland driving school.
Arriving at the desired spot one may be forgiven to think that all is well. Some hunters admire the beauty of the surroundings others grin at the simple pleasure of beating the guy behind them to the spot. You would be mistaken, however, if you thought that the great hunt is now over. The big finale is only about to begin. There are two entire attraction filled days ahead! And so, many hunters find that THE room with a wonderful panorama of the surroundings is already taken by another pack, which was probably more skillful in stages one and two.
The alpha male or female now must embark on a frantic search for a hotel room. Of course finding a space in the town of choice is nigh on impossible so the pack settles for a quiet bed and breakfast in a neighbouring village. This is not necessarily a bad thing, mile long walks and added peace and quiet mean that the pack can enjoy the great outdoors to a fuller extent. Unfortunately, scheming restaurant owners, hotel owners and the worst kind of them all; fellow hunters from the city, greet the pack everywhere they go.
The days go by looking for that nice restaurant, waiting in line to see those beautiful caves or just waiting in traffic. The planned relaxation and recreation turns into a nervous, frantic and never-ending contest. People give each other constant nasty looks. And so instead of thinking about a relaxing weekend, the one and overbearing thought is returning home. Just to have some peace and quiet and not have to fight for that elusive window seat or fine poolside spot.
The hunt is on, each weekend and each summer, it never stops. The number of hunting packs never decreases. I wonder if we ever will evolve from the wooden club and flint stone age. Or are we forever destined to continue the legacy of our thickskulled forefathers and continue the hunt?