People were looking at me strangely when I opened up my grocery bag and started making a sandwich out of normal sandwich things. It may have been my ‘it’s 4 o’clock in the morning up-do’ or the fact that I was taking chunk bites out of a block of cheese for lack of knife. I sat there thoroughly satisfied with my sandwich and cheese wondering why everyone looked like Jennifer Aniston so early in the morning waiting for a flight to Phoenix. It dawned on me (pun) that I was actually on my way to somewhere important too and should have probably spent more time on my appearance that morning. Little did I know then that I would meet a lot of people that day who probably deserved more than my cheese-breath and whose generosity would humble me more than a day without a comb.
I took three flights to get to a hunky-dory little airport in Medford, Oregon. On my second flight I had the pleasure of sitting next to a gentlemanly old man, Ron, who helped me get my carry-on into the over-head compartment. He made jokes about all the rocks I was seemingly taking to Oregon and seemed satisfied with me as a person when I joked back that rocks make great accessories. After the flight, Ron once again assisted me in getting my luggage down from the over-head compartment but this time curiously and with a concerned expression joked, “I didn’t even hear the baby in there crying during the whole flight.” I was drawing a blank on crafty responses so I settled with awkward forced laughter.
When we got off the plane and I had finally found my last gate and layover of the day. And who was there other than Ron?! After we delighted in the fact that we were on yet another flight together, Ron offered to buy me some coffee at Starbucks. And I never turn down a cup of the sweet nectar of life when it’s offered. As we stood in line silently pretending to study the menu (what human being doesn’t have the Starbucks menu inscribed on their heart?) I thought about how to thank him without following our theme of rhetoric we’d been using all morning. I thanked him profusely from the bottom of my coffee-malnourished soul and he swatted away my thanks by saying he was only buying me coffee to spare himself of my gorilla snoring on his final flight of the day. “During the last flight while you were sleeping, you were snoring so loud that the captain got on the intercom to say he was concerned about the plane’s engine.” I had to laugh out loud; that funny sonofagun.
We sat at gate A5 sipping on our coffee when he asked me what I was doing in Oregon and why Ashland of all places. I went on to tell him about my chasing a dream to be a shoe cobbler. I finally explained to him that my bag was full of shoe-making lasts, which were basically my babies. Other folks nearby were genuinely interested and jumped into the conversation and within 5 minutes we knew each other’s names and other things like how Allen was born in the small town Ron had lived in during the 70’s and on and on. And since I was full of fresh news, they quickly turned back to me. They asked me how I was getting to Ashland, the little town in which I was staying, from Medford. “Um, well, that’s the part of the trip I haven’t really thought about yet. I was more concerned with making all three of my flights this morning which was only the second huge hurtle of the day after trying to make a sandwich in an airport.” With this, Jim and Sue piped in that they were from Ashland and Sue quickly tapped her husband’s arm and with her gentle feminine charm insisted that he invite to take me to the little cottage I was staying at. My eyes widened and I felt that they were getting glassy from being over-whelmed with so much generosity. And I never turn down a gesture like that especially when it’s the choice between an Uber stranger and strangers that offer you a ride out of the goodness and kindness of their hearts for the affordable cost of $Free.99.
They sat a few rows back on the small, tin-can of a plane with Ron sitting in a few rows ahead. I sat next to a lovely woman that I wrongly judged as not wanting much interaction. By the end of the flight we had talked about all our favorite TLC shows which naturally got us to talking about love and family and the hopelessness of humanity. She told me of her own life that was characterized by RVing across the United States for 10 years. I wanted to be her in that moment just to know what that was like without actually having to do it. That was the note we left on because our plane had landed in Medford. I forgot to get her name.
After I got my bags, I met up with Jim and Sue. On autopilot, I followed them to the parking lot that I anticipated as being something like Denver’s. I was pleasantly surprised when we didn’t have to walk for 40 days and nights or play the license-plate game just to survive the endless abyss of cars. As they walked me to their little Toyota, Sue asked me about my job, schooling, and if I loved what I did for work. “What’s not to love about shuffling papers around for 8 hours a day and the anxiety that comes from trying to make it look like you’re on an important phone call,” is what I thought. I didn’t say that out loud. I chuckled and told her that I was chasing a dream out here for a reason.