It Counts but It’s Pitiful

On March 8, 2011 · 13 Comments

We’ve had a lively discussion in the comments to the "I’ve Barely Been There" article. I described the official 12MC Rules in the original article: if I touch the geographic area, no matter how briefly, I count it as having been visited. I defined "touch" as anything more than flying over it.

One doesn’t actually have to grab a handful of dirt. Automobiles, trains, horses, white water rafting or shoe leather would all be acceptable intermediaries. Helicopters, airplanes, hot air balloons, hang gliders or winged dragons would be excluded except for where they land. I’m conflicted with ocean-going vessels that bump into territorial waters although I’m inclined to consider those out of bounds too, except where they pull into port and one disembarks.

Those are my personal criteria. That’s the beauty of counting. Each participant defines his or her own rules. Here are some thoughts from a few readers:

  • Mike Lowe has flown through the Minneapolis airport four times. He figures it should count as a Minnesota visit after all those distinct layovers.
  • jlumsden has changed planes seven (soon to be nine) times in Texas. He counts Texas. He also wants to know if anyone participates in "mileage runs" to increase their frequent-flier perks.
  • Peter portrays airports as a "neutral ground" of a sort. They could be construed as conceptually removed from the physical geography underlying them.
  • Jean described an international flight that stopped in Toronto, Canada, briefly. The airport had a preclearance agreement with the United States. He passed through U.S. customs and immigration in Canada and continued forward on his journey to the U.S. as a domestic passenger. He states compellingly, "I was then legally in the United States and physically in Toronto, how would you count that? I personally consider I’ve never been to Canada."

Those are all valid points.

I noted that I have this issue personally with only two U.S. counties: Shelby Co., TN (Memphis airport) and Salt Lake Co., UT (Salt Lake City airport). Fortunately I’ve visited lots of other places within Tennessee and Utah so counting the overall state isn’t an issue. Shelby Co. and Salt Lake Co. might come into question, although I count them according to my rules.

My Pathetic Visit to Ireland

What should I make of my single pitiful trip to Ireland when I never left Shannon Airport? I have evidence that I was there based on this photograph from the early 1990’s. I could see the Irish countryside from a terminal window. I even collected a handful Irish coins (this was pre-Euro) since I had to exchange a few dollars to get a snack. Undeniably I’ve been to Ireland and I’ve marked it on my map.

However, when prompted, my response always includes a giant, flashing neon-red asterisk next to it. I may have visited Ireland in some exceedingly narrow technical sense but I’d never go so far as to say that I’ve experienced Ireland. That would be pathetic. I’ve experienced nothing more than a generic airport terminal fully removed from anything Irish except perhaps for a patch of the Emerald Isle that happened to sit beneath layers of concrete.

That, really, seems to be an underlying theme for all of our personal rules: where do we draw the line between technical exactness and more experiential considerations? Mine tend to fall closer to the technical side. Nonetheless I still want to go back to Ireland someday and do it justice. Right now it’s embarrassing, rules or no rules.

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