Traveling alone is something that I’ve always enjoyed. One of the pleasures is being able to eavesdrop on the lives of others. That doesn’t usually happen when traveling with a companion.
I spent several days in New York City in the past week participating in a medical research study. I stayed in an area unfrequented by tourists and delighted in leaving my hotel in the morning to mingle with fathers or mothers walking their children to school, shop keepers putting out signs for the day’s specials and a general sense of local people going about their lives.
In a restaurant one evening my table was very near one occupied by two women. I had started to read my book but couldn’t concentrate. The voice of one was very compelling, I couldn’t help but listen. Current films were discussed. The new Woody Allen movie led to an animated discussion of his relationship with Mia Farrow and subsequent marriage to her adopted daughter. They moved on to JFK and his family. Who was married to whom, Jackie’s bloody dress after the assassination, Teddy’s wild youth and his transition to becoming a powerful and respected Senate leader, Joan’s alcoholism and what happened to her. This led to a discussion of the Kennedy sisters, who married well, who was an alcoholic, Kathleen’s ill-fated marriage to nobility and early death. and Rosemary’s institutionalization. Oh, and Rose’s reputation for being a tough lady.
Another day I sat near two people on a bus, obviously strangers who had struck up a conversation. Both immigrants. She was from Austria, living in the US for 30 years but only becoming a citizen last year. She talked of visiting her father in Austria each year. He’s 100 years old and still gardens. He’s currently deciding what to plant next spring when he’ll be 101, a true role model for optimism. The other member of the conversation was a man from Ireland, obvious from his strong brogue. He’s been here 16 years but isn’t a citizen.
There was also the woman who brought her son, maybe ten years old, into a little cafe for some sugar “loading” before a medical exam, they bought soda and a pastry and then she kept asking if he was going to “crash”. While he was loading up on sugar, she read a Glamour Magazine.
The five hour trip back to Boston by bus was broken by a rest stop at a fast food restaurant. Two buses had arrived at nearly the same time. In line for service one driver was telling another how to overcome his high blood pressure.
“No regular salt, only sea salt, no sugar, only maple sirup or agave, no white flour, no meat: no pork, beef, turkey, chicken, no meat. In two weeks your body will have reset and your blood pressure will be fine.”
The advice giver asked for a cup of hot water. The other driver with high blood pressure ordered a burger and fries.
I’m home again with people I know but I did enjoy my brief peak into the lives of strangers.