The Best of Andy Rooney

Winter began about a month ago, and I'm starting to think of traveling somewhere warm to escape the cold for a while.

Of course, if I went someplace tropical, I'd probably be too hot.

If I had to name the single biggest invention that changed the lives of people for the better in the last 100 years, I'd have to say it was air-conditioning. We call it "conditioning," but it actually means "cooling." Air-conditioned cars and planes have made our lives more comfortable. I don't know how we got anything done before air-conditioning was invented. Just imagine the difference between traveling on a hot, dusty road a century ago in a carriage behind a horse trotting 8 mph, and sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned plane going 400 mph today.

If I do decide to escape to some faraway beach or desert oasis, at least it will be fairly easy to get there.

Travel to other countries has changed since I was young. Ships have been sailing between countries for hundreds of years, but air travel has made vacations to far-flung destinations more common than ships or railroads ever did.

My father traveled in his business but it was before commercial airlines existed and he went mostly by rail and on cruise ships. Except during World War II, when I was with the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, I never worked anywhere but in America. However, I've been to dozens of countries on vacation that my father never visited because I can go by air. It isn't a cheap way to travel but it's quick and easy.

I'm happy to have been to several countries because I can now strike them from my list of places I want to go. I've been to Egypt but never to Pakistan. I don't think I'm going to make it to Pakistan any time soon. I've been to India, as well. Please don't expect me back there any time soon. I spent some time in Italy during World War II and I've visited Rome a couple of times in my lifetime.

I liked what I saw in those places, but I've lived in Paris and London and I'll take France or England ahead of any other place but the United States. I like Canada but it's so much like the U.S. that traveling there doesn't feel really like going away to me.

If I went really far afield for my winter getaway, say to Thailand or Greece, it would be warm, but I might have trouble being understood.

I think it's difficult to be alone in a country whose language you don't understand. Thankfully, many countries teach English as their second language, so you can readily find someone who speaks English most places. It would be good if everyone spoke the same language but that will never happen.

I can make my way around Paris and not go hungry or thirsty, and I'm always pleased with myself for remembering so much of Mr. Sharp's French. He was my teacher in high school. I'm not sure the French like what they hear coming from my mouth because my grammar is bad, but I can speak adequate French. The next time I go to Paris, I'll try to brush up so they'll understand me better.

Come to think of it, I think I'll just stay home and warm up by the fire.

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