Solo Traveler: Perceptions of Los Alamos

Solo Traveler
Perceptions of Los Alamos

In a traveling life, just like life at home, we meet people we connect with instantly, forming long lasting friendships. And sometimes we meet people we hope we never see again.

In San Cristobal, Chiapas, I met a handsome middle-aged world traveler named Temoc. He invited me to join him for coffee the next day. I was delighted. As an older lady, I don’t get asked on dates very often.

We met in front of an excellent coffee and pastry restaurant under the portal across from the Zócalo. Another woman showed up. After a few pleasantries, we realized he had asked both of us on the same date. It was silly and sophomoric, but we were adults. We relaxed and chatted.

Even though it turned out we had the exact same birth date and a few other things in common, I couldn’t stand the woman.

There was, of course, just a teensy bit of jealousy.  She was tall, thin, and blond. I’m not any of those things. A Swede who spoke three languages, she was also well-traveled, and made a living as an artist. But those weren’t reasons to dislike her.

Her personality was simply too much like mine. She was confident, bossy, utterly self-centered, and a know-it-all. A truly terrible combination. And she clearly didn’t care much for me either, probably for the same reasons.

What was particularly irksome was her misuse of words, which I could overlook because, although she was clearly fluent, English wasn’t her first language. She used the word physics a lot. She had come to Mexico to make a documentary of indigenous healing techniques, to teach the Mayans physics – how they might rise above this astral plane, and realize their potential as inter-stellar beings.

I did my best to distinguish the difference between physics and metaphysics. It didn’t work. When I explained that I lived in Los Alamos, home to the famous physics lab and really did know what the term physics meant, she interrupted to say she knew all about that horrible town.

She had spent a month in Santa Fe where she stayed with a friend. The friend described how the people in Los Alamos dumped all kinds of toxic chemicals and radioactive waste right out onto the ground.

I told her that simply was not the case. I lived there, had worked at the lab, and knew how much care was taken to prevent spills. She declared that I was wrong because her friend wouldn’t lie to her, implying of course that I would. So I asked if her friend was a member of the Los Alamos Hysterical Society.

She huffed and excused herself to go to the baño. I stood up, gathered my purse and jacket, patted Temoc on the shoulder, and said “Thanks for the coffee and good luck with that one.” Then I left. Now they could go on a real date. With each other.

Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the U.S., Mexico and Europe since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer and travel writer who organizes tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website: Hardage welcomes comments via email:

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