Homeward. Day 28

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One last moment for idleness without guilt. THE last day of 28 days around the world. It is like any vacation. At the beginning it seems endless. At the end it seems abrupt. One last long ride in a plane. One last moment for idleness without guilt. Here comes that in-flight movie programmed for returning tourists by coincidence or by someone with a wicked sense of humor. It's ``A Room With a View,'' based on E. M. Forster's quiet satire on tourists of an earlier age.

I wonder if I have been as naive, insensitive, stuffy, supercilious, sentimental as one or another of Forster's characters. Not all the time, I decide, giving myself the benefit of the doubt. All it takes is a bit of umbrage at a fellow countryman's provincial behavior to get a hint of the beam in one's own eye.

Fortunately, on a transatlantic flight, another meal comes along before the contemplation of a movie can grow too heavy.

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It's been fun getting to know our group of 25 Americans in strange settings, even as it has been fun getting to know the strange settings themselves with the help of our seasoned but not jaded tour leader.

I think of the bathtub stopper sent with us by a friend who had visited the Soviet Union. She said she had to use her heel to plug the drain. Maybe times have changed. We found stoppers everywhere except in one sink on the train. Our carry-on stopper improved my shave. Also on the train the soap tended to disappear or become slimy around the edges. Then we were glad for the booklet of soap leaves sent along by other bon voyagers.

But I smugly tell myself no one could complain about the amenities during these four weeks in four countries except someone who wants everywhere to be just like home.

We touch down in New York only a little late. I know I'm in America when we ride the lurching boarding bus for our Boston flight. The bus hostess welcomes us to ``your mobile lounge.''

What would such a phrase on such a vehicle mean to overseas passengers with phrasebooks and no more English than I had of other languages on our trip? How would I explain it to them in a few words and a smile? A hug for all those Chinese, Russians, Finns, Swedes who learned enough of our language to help us get along in their countries, whatever the current state of diplomatic, or undiplomatic, relations.

And a hug for the offspring who meet us at the airport. The beans came in while we were away? You had to freeze most of them? Yes, Mom just about filled the journal. Well, I hope the movies come out.

Roderick Nordell is the Monitor's feature editor. His vacation is over.

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