I have written at some length about my own personal quests for such random items as kao soy (a tasty Northern Thai dish with fried noodles and spicy meat), indomethecin (a drug often prescribed for gout), and tasty but impossible to buy alfalfa sprouts , and all of these quests shared some qualities in common. For one, they were accidental quests, in that I intended them all to be ordinary errands that would have a single stop, and instead all of them ended up being much more lengthy and drawn out affairs that provided insight into the obscurity of certain items as well as the problem of distribution of said items. The same thing can be said of other quests I have been a part of, like the quest of my family to get American Exchange traveler’s checks changed in Esquipulas, Guatemala, which ended up highlighting the relationship between the American military and that of Guatemala, since it was only the Military Bank where one could change American Express traveler’s checks in the first place. Perhaps it may be said that I am not the sort of person who deliberately engages in quests myself, or at least not purposeful quests that can be summarized in a single blog post.
But today I would like to focus on the quests of others, because one’s role in the quests of other people is just as important and intriguing as one’s own personal quests. Indeed, even in the quest for having the Amex traveler’s checks exchanged for quetzals, I was participating in the quest of my mother and to a lesser extent my stepfather, serving as the translator as well as observer of the scene. Indeed, when we are a part of the quests of others, we may have a wide variety of roles even where we are not the primary participants in the quest. One can be a supporting member of the cast, where one’s language skills are necessary, such as my ability to translate between English and Spanish. Alternatively, one can be someone who is not involved on the quest but a minor character in the goings on of it. One can even, if one’s circumstances are particularly unlucky, be a blocking character for the quests of others, and thus someone who is actively an adversary of the quests that others are participating in.
Why would I think to write about this subject right now? Well, I am an observer of the quests of others and find them interesting. For example, this past weekend, I enjoyed a family dinner with a distant cousin of mine and then stopped at another relative’s place to crash for the evening, since I didn’t want to drive when it was too late, as past experience had shown that to be a less than enjoyable experience–I was actively seeking to avoid turning a trip into a quest, in other words. Lo and behold, though, someone had returned quietly during the evening from a quest of his own, and when I returned home again last night I found that my roommate had still not returned home from his own epic quest that he had undertaken with a friend of his on Thursday morning. In both of the epic quests I am thinking of I would be a distinctly minor character–a witness to a surprise return home from a lone journey in one hand and someone who remains at home doing my own thing and minding my own business while some sort of Bucket List-like shenanigans are going on.
Such events are not uncommon. We simply do not know what sort of quests other people are on when we happen to interact with them. On Thursday night, for example, I had a pleasant dinner while attending a wet and somewhat rainy company picnic, and it so happens that some of my coworkers had a vastly more difficult time getting their dinner than I did, with one coworker’s somewhat mopey five year old son asking me whether I had a daughter (a rather random question) and refusing to eat any edamame because he wanted his fries even though it took the Boro Burger truck about an hour, if not more, to cook up his mother’s vegetarian burger and the fries he was waiting for. Here I was a sympathetic observer but not someone directly involved in the quest for dinner, or in the enjoyment of bouncy houses and the like. And ultimately I am okay with that. Sometimes in life it is not the place and time for us to be involved in epic quests, but we can cheer on and encourage and greet and welcome and help others who are engaged in quests in which we may not always completely be aware of.
 See, for example: