Friday, April 23, 2010

People You Meet

Even an anti-social loner like me can't help meeting a few people along the way, especially traveling solo.

In Manzanita I was sitting outside having my coffee when two women arrived with a one-eyed dog. My backpack must have caught her eye and she asked, Are you traveling alone? Where are you from? Are you hitchhiking? - No. Taking the bus? - No. Renting a car? - No. (At this point she was stumped.) Then how are you getting around? She was surprised when I said by foot. I have to admit it's the exception these days, especially at my age. It might sound like twenty questions, but she was just curious and friendly. She disappeared into the coffee shop. But a few minutes later she stuck her head out the door and asked me if I would like to join them. I had a good excuse not to be social since I'd finished my coffee and was getting ready to leave, but I thanked her. She went back inside and through the window I heard her friend giving her a hard time for trying to pick up strange men. She replied that when she used to travel on her own she appreciated it when people were friendly. Even though I didn't accept her offer I appreciated the gesture. Besides, she was kind of cute :-)

The next character I ran into was on the bus to Garibaldi. She was across the aisle from me. At first glance she seemed normal enough. But she didn't stop talking the whole trip. (Thankfully it was a short trip!) I heard about her trips to Europe, teaching her daughters about the evils of the city, about staying in scuzzy hotels and classy hotels, and a long story about giving some kids water and nuts and a lighter for their campfire except they didn't even have a tent, cause she'd been there too. Each piece kind of made sense but the whole stream was a little much. She even wanted the bus to stop to help someone with a flat tire!

But not everyone on the bus is a "psycho" (as Jennie would say). On the longer trip to Portland I talked with a very interesting guy. He was an electrical engineer, who worked all over, including in Alberta. He was living on a former dairy farm which he was turning back into forest, much to the annoyance of his neighboring dairy farmers, although the only concrete objection they could come up with was that his trees were shading their pasture. Yeah, right. We talked about wind power (popular) and nuclear (unlikely in this area). I asked what he thought about electric cars. He thought they could be good but was concerned about the current battery technology and all the toxic chemicals either in car crashes or when they had to be disposed of. Good point. It was an interesting, wide ranging conversation that made the trip go by quickly.

I didn't even talk to the last person. He was the bartender at the hotel in Portland. (The lounge had a great view, comfy chairs, good lattes, and good food and wine, so I stopped there a number of times.) Every time, he was busy talking about climbing. It didn't seem to matter who the customer was, the conversation always seemed to end up about climbing. He was relatively new to it and obviously totally captivated. He reminded me of myself many years ago. I thought about talking to him but invariably the question would come up of what climbing I'd done and I didn't want my long history overshadowing his first steps. It was nice to hear his passion.

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