I love the Facebook page, Humans of New York. So many interesting stories and fascinating photographs. It, along with other things, inspired me to set a goal for this trip that my husband, Mark, and I are now on in Europe. My goal: to have an encounter with at least one person every day of the trip which I can then write about (and learn from and grow from). I will entitle theses posts "Humans of Europe 2014."
I already had two at the Salt Lake Airport before we left.
The first was our Delta ticket agent. By the luck of the draw, we got a 50-something-year-old man. He was very pleasant, yet officious. He got us all taken care of at the counter, then walked with us and our two bike boxes down to the TSA counter for oversized luggage. I don't know if he was required to, but he stayed with us the whole time that the boxes were being examined by the TSA employee.
I wish I had gotten the Delta agent's name. It would have added so much. I would also liked to have taken his picture, but that might have been weird. So I will just refer to him as "the Delta Agent." So impersonal, but there you have it.
Mark dealt with the TSA guy while he opened first my box, then Mark's (both packed by Mark). Apparently, no one is supposed to touch the bags while they are being inspected. The TSA-er swabbed various areas of the bike for explosives (as if), then was done. Mark advanced at one point to help him restore his carefully-packed bike box, but the -er turned and said, "No. Stay there. You might have something up your sleeve that you could slip in the box. (I guess he just showed his hand.) I'll welcome your help when I'm done, but now now." The Delta Agent told me no one is allowed to touch the bag except the -er.
While Mark was dealing with the -er, I was chatting with the Delta Agent. He appeared to be about my age (but I later learned that I am a few years older than he/ him? - grammarians feel free to jump in), and was quite personable, becoming more so the longer we talked. (Question: When is a person "able"?) While we were waiting a whole flock (and I choose my words carefully) of missionaries fresh out of the Missionary Training Center in Provo descended on the Delta kiosks. I wish I had taken a picture. It seemed like there were dozens of them (at least two).
I wondered aloud to the Agent whether the missionaries would be on the same flight to Paris. Then, I heard an elder walk by and say to another, "Vous etes prets?" I turned to the Agent and said, "Yep, they're going to France." He seemed surprised that I understood French. I then saw a couple of sister missionaries close by and noticed that their name tags said, "Soeur" ("sister" in French). That removed any doubt. Again, the surprise on the face of the Agent.
"I was a missionary in France a million years ago," I told the Agent. The first fleeting look that crossed his face appeared to be quizzical. My story was that he had deduced that Mark and I are a gay couple, and so he was trying momentarily to compute the fact that I had served a Mormon mission. That look quickly passed, and was replaced by a broadly-smiling face.
"I served in England," he said. I asked him where in England, and he proceeded to list a number of cities and towns in southern England, including London. "My daughter," he added, "is now in Trinidad." And so we chatted. Two humans.
The subject then came around to our bicycles. He asked if we had been in the recent Tour of Utah. I chuckled and said, "No, that's for professionals." "Oh," he replied, I thought you guys are professionals." (Gotta love it.)
As we completed the bike baggage check, I said good-bye to the Agent, shaking his hand. He, in turn, wished us bon voyage. I later reflected that I had perhaps done a little missionary work myself that day. Perhaps I had demonstrated to him, and apparently active Mormon, that gay people are just like everyone else.
But regardless of all that, we connected as human to human while we overlooked the -er (who I am sure has a very interesting story) complete his task.
Life is grand.
(BTW, the second encounter will have to wait to the next post. I'll just say, as a teaser, that it involves a British pound coin. Seriously.)
Also, BTW, the lead picture was taken of our window in our small hotel in Le Freney d'Oisans. As I write this, I am sitting with Mark outside the hotel on a cool summer evening, watching the glow of the sun recede from the forested hills across from us. (A note to my brother-in-law, Koen: A Dutch guy is about 15 feet away speaking in Dutch (?), to Rob, one of the owners - along with his partner/husband Dirk - of the Hotel Cassini where we are staying. I thought of you.)