What are we, really, without our enemies? What is a discussion without disagreement? Where would we be without those that defy us?
On every trip I’ve taken, and in every stage of my life, I have had nemeses. In chess there is Trevor of the US Air Force — our games last months, and I will sometimes obsess over a single move for hours and days. In wrestling I’ve had more rivalries than I will attempt to list here — rivalries that sometimes occupied my every waking thought, and still haunt my dreams — narratives that still have the power to captivate me entirely.
I continue to have a combative relationship with taxi drivers all over the world, and few of you are unfamiliar with my attitudes toward the Queen of England. In Panama there was Poncho, in Bolivia there was Cachito, and in the United States there was Officer McCrindle.
And here in Tunisia? In no other country have I had rocks thrown at me. In no other country have I been spat at. But such gestures and the people who execute them are but annoyances. I do not curse them at every hurdle. I do not rue them. I do not feel anger at the prospect of the sounds of their footsteps upon the earth. And so for this trip, perhaps, it is Donna Wheeler, coordinating author of the 2010 edition of the Lonely Planet Tunisia.
I have cursed her name repeatedly, and while she is perhaps not relevant enough to be a real nemesis — to be anything but a loathsome annoyance — of those listed above she is probably the one I hate the most.
Now, I often travel with a Lonely Planet because they are usually geared towards budget conscious travellers who don’t need things like hot showers or fancy food. They have maps and travel routes and approximate journey lengths, along with prices, schedules, and frequencies. The information can save a lot of time and money, and while it isn’t necessary, it is certainly handy. I have travelled to various countries without a guide, and to no ill effect; but a good travel guide is usually worth its weight in my backpack. Donna Wheeler’s LP Tunisia is by far the worst Lonely Planet I’ve ever travelled with.
She is incredibly pretentious, and every word drips with her annoying and elitist personality. She seems to disdain anything that is not luxurious or expensive. Her favourite personality trait may be her naiveté; she has an entire box romanticizing how she got ripped off by a carpet dealer (no, she didn’t realize she was ripped off, but reading between the lines the reality of the transaction is abundantly clear). Next to her picture, she wears a stupid sour smile with a mediocre looking coastline behind her, and writes (about herself!): “that beatific smile is hiding a mind in motion. . . can I come up with the words for a thousand hues of blue?” Fuck You, Donna Wheeler! Fuck you very much! And your smile is not beatific! It is stupid! Has no one ever told you that you suck!?
The edition was written before the (Jasmine) Revolution (also known as the Arab Spring), and I wonder if she is embarrassed by how euphemistically she described the government. And for some reason she seems to think that talking about colour is very very important.
Interestingly, when there is no map, her descriptions become more obscure. She’ll write things like “The road is well marked, except for two unmarked forks on the way.” She once described the signless hostel I was looking for as ‘the blue and white building on the beach’ in a town where every building was blue and white and the beach stretched for miles. fuck. you. donna. wheeler.
When discussing a restaurant she sometimes makes no mention of the food, but will labour on some completely obscure detail, like “smart blue table clothes and light wood furniture.” Smart Blue Fucking Table Clothes? Does Blue Taste Good!? Do you really believe I care what the furniture is made of? Are you an idiot, Donna Wheeler?
In one case she noted that a budget hostel had chipped paint. Who are you!? Where am I?! Why are you so impressed with the markets that sell crap made in China? Is it really that beautiful? Can I really “oggle the ceramics”? I hate you! I hate everything about you! Why did they let you write a Lonely Planet? How much less would this book weigh if all of the useless crap you’ve written had been omitted? It is painfully obvious that no one will buy your stupid novel, or your memoirs, and I am sure that your travel diary is crap! Fuck you, Donna Wheeler! You are not good enough for me! You can’t be my nemesis just by sucking and existing! I deserve better!
I really do.
End. Of. Rant.
quietly standing before an empty corner