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Road trip

by Jenna Weissman Joselit on March 1st, 2016

“What brings you to Boca? Business or pleasure?” asks the cab driver. I’m too busy holding on for dear life to answer. No sooner had we left the airport than the car was engulfed in a rainstorm so intense that it’s bucking like a bronco. To add insult to injury, the rain is so thick you can’t see a damn thing. In an attempt to calm his nerves as he threads his way, the cab driver is engaging in what is otherwise known as polite conversation. In an attempt to calm mine, I’ve started to sing quietly to myself — one of my favorite Hebrew songs. Okay, it’s really a prayer.

Welcome to Boca Raton

Welcome to Boca. Flickr/elpintobeans

Eventually, the storm subsides and after what feels like an eternity, we finally reach my hotel. But the gods have not yet finished with me. It turns out that the cab driver’s credit card system has stopped working. Since I don’t have enough cash on hand to pay the unexpectedly hefty bill, we have to phone someone in the dispatcher’s office to connect us to someone else who’ll authorize the use of my credit card. That takes some doing, too.

After a while, the situation is properly “sorted,” as the British might say. I then make my weary way inside the hotel and approach the check-in desk. Since I’m the guest of a local university, the cost of my lodgings has been taken care of, but not my “incidentals.” I’m asked to furnish a credit card as well as a photo ID and to sign here and there and, ‘yes, once more, please, at the bottom.’ As I do, I see with delight that my room comes with a balcony. I can’t wait to be one with the palm trees, to gaze upon the pool with a restorative gin and tonic in hand.

Nope. That’s not to be. While the room does have a balcony, it overlooks the parking lot and the garbage disposal area. Someone is having a very good laugh at my expense. I go to bed.

The next day is full. There’s breakfast with a friend, a quick stop at the beach so that I might gaze longingly at the water, followed by lunch with the cousins at “the club,” and then two speeches in quick succession, one for the “academic community,” at 4 p.m. and the other for prospective donors at 7. To accommodate both audiences, my host and I have dinner at 5 o’clock.

The place is jammed. With sportily-attired people. And walkers. And wheelchairs and some newfangled form of locomotion that I’ve never before seen. The energy is both palpable and familiar. Though I’ve only been to Boca once before, I recognize the scene. Perhaps from a “Seinfeld” episode. It’s sad — but gallant.

I deliver my second talk of the day, which has to do with the destruction of the Torah by the Nazis. I feel a profound disconnect, a fundamental incongruity, between my chosen theme and the setting and wonder if I’m the only one.

Travel, I know, is meant to be broadening. It’s often unsettling, too. I can’t wait to return home.

Not so fast. My plane is delayed: a fitting coda to my brief stay in South Florida.

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