I really needed this vacation. A dark and weighty introspection had leaked into some of my recent posts, and I was finding myself preoccupied by the crushing need that seems to be everywhere. I feel some of the weight lifting as I watch the ferries crossing the channel, listen to the waves lapping at the sandstone and breathe the air thick with the sea and its salty perfume.
Part of it is plain exhaustion. Between the hot flashes and all the other stuff that goes on in my brain, I just don’t sleep so great. There is lots to worry about and I find the wee hours to be ideally suited for contemplating all the things I can do nothing about.
I’m catching up on my rest, though. This morning after coffee and breakfast I read for about ten minutes and then took a nap. By the time I was presentable, we needed to eat lunch. Louise and I were planning a hike around a place called Montague Provincial Park and we stopped for a burger on the way.
Just as we were leaving, a young woman came in and politely asked the waitress if she could have a napkin. “A napkin? Sure, love, help yourself.” (This is how they talk in Canada). I watched as the young woman took one paper napkin from a pile and left again. Her hair was wet and she looked mildly rumpled. Somewhere between rumpled and disheveled, but happy.
We got into our car and set off. A few yards down the road we saw the young woman, together with a man, standing by the side of the road hitchhiking. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a hitchhiker. I’m sure it’s been at least 20 years. “Should we stop?” I asked Louise. “Sure, why not?”
It did seem pretty harmless. I pulled over and looked into the rear view mirror. The two of them were standing and looking at us. I gave a little wave and they came running over.
“Are you stopping for us?” the woman said. I asked where they were headed. “Montague Harbor.” Just where we were going.
“Get in, we’ll take you.” The woman climbed into the back seat. “I’m Dana. And this is Joel. Thank you so much for stopping!” Then she said, “I had a dream about one of these cars last week! My mother was with me and my teacher, Mr. Swiderski was missing. We were looking for him and when we turned on the windshield wipers they spun around in circles.”
Hearing her share the details of her dream, I felt immediately close to this young woman. We had a good laugh as I demonstrated the conventional action of the windshield wipers. “Maybe they only spin in circles when Mr. Swiderski is involved.”
I asked if they were camping at the park. “No,” she said. “We’ve been on a boat for a few days. We just needed to wash our clothes and get a shower.”
The two of them live in Vancouver and are recently unemployed so they’ve been traveling from island to island. “We just got a good vibe when we got here,” said Joel, “and we knew we had to chill for a bit.”
They asked if we were American and I admitted it reluctantly. “Don’t worry! I love Americans!” declared Dana. I tried to explain the angst that many of us feel these days, with the high unemployment, so many people without health insurance, etc etc. “We just don’t get that!” she said. “I mean, America has everything. How can you not have something so basic as health care?”
We pulled into the harbor and Dana leaned forward. “We’re sad to say goodbye to this place. But we’re ending it on a high note! Thank you again!” They climbed out of the car and waved goodbye, then headed off. Young people sure move fast these days.
“Hey, just a minute!” I called. I jumped out and was standing in front of them. “There’s something I want to give away today, and I want to give it to you,” I explained. “What is it?” asked Dana, curiosity lighting up her features.
“It’s a hundred dollars.” I handed her the bill. “Oh, my god!” they both said. Joel reached out and pulled me into a hug. “Thank you so much! Oh, my god!” They wanted to know why and I explained about my mom and the journey I’ve been on over the past year to shed some of my cheapskate habits. “That is so rad!” said Dana.
“We are so broke,” said Joel. “You just don’t even know.” He had tears in his eyes. “Yeah,” said Dana. “We were thinking about lunch this afternoon and we looked at a head of cabbage. ‘Should we?’ we wondered.” I remembered her coming into the restaurant for a napkin; how I had left food on my plate and how I wished I had offered to buy them a meal.
I told the two of them about the blog and they said I could take their photo. They both hugged me again and we got ready to say goodbye. “It’s so great that you are sharing your story,” said Dana. “When people see this, they’ll remember that there are lots of people in America who aren’t selfish.”
It’s true. And that’s the America I can be proud of.
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