As much as Gill and I had a wonderful time during my visit with her in Bristol, I think she was more than a little taken aback, horrified even, at my insistence on approaching and talking to random strangers. It began, really, as soon as she met me at Gatwick. I regaled her with tales of my seat mate on the plane.
“She was an interesting woman,” I began. “She was born in Alabama, raised in Michigan (she hates Michigan!), now lives in Tennessee. She was married and divorced three times, has four grown children (all of whom are in the military…and she does long-haul trucking for a living. She’s gone back to school to finish her degree and she’s been to all but two of the states in the U.S. This trip to Europe is a dream come true that she’s been saving for for years…”
I was going to continue when Gill interrupted me:”Ma! You know her entire life history. The flight wasn’t that long! How can you do that? When I fly, I ignore my seat mates, hunker down and pretend to sleep so they won’t bother me.”
As we continued walking through the terminal, someone shouted my name. We turned to see my seat mate waving at us. “Excuse me, but do you know where the car rental places are?” I had told her that I was visiting my daughter who lives in England, so I guess she figured Gill would know such things.
Giving me a weird look, Gill piped up,”I think it’s just down there. We can walk you to the place if you’d like.” She took us up on the offer and we wished her well on her trip.
Gill was shaking her head at this point. “Ma, I don’t know how you do it! You just start talking to people…I couldn’t do that if you paid me.”
Days later, we went to Bath for the day. We had lunch in a pub that Gill thought wasn’t great but it suited our needs. It was close, it had food, it had drink, and we could sit to rest our weary backs. Gill warned me about the ‘hen party’ doing tequila shots at the bar. “A rowdy group,” she assessed.
I went to the ladies’ room after lunch and, as I went to the sink, I noticed a woman standing at the other sink. I wasn’t going to say anything but she piped up, saying “Hello.” To be polite, I asked if she was from Bath. She was. She asked where I was from. Then she stuck out her hand to shake mine.
“I’m Laurie,” she announced. “Nice to meet you.”
I chuckled. “My name is Laurie too!”
“Oh, you’re kidding! How amazing is that?” She looked skyward and, all flustered, announced that the Lord works in mysterious ways. “What are the chances?” she asked. “It must be a sign.”
She became further convinced that a divine being had been involved when she discovered we spell our names the same way. We left the ladies’ and walked up the stairs together, chatting as we went. When I got back to my seat, Gill looked askance.”What is she, your new BFF? She’s one of the women who was doing tequila shots!”
“Really? She was a bit strange but didn’t seem drunk. No slurred speech, she walked straight up the stairs without wobbling –and she was wearing heels!”
Gill gave me ‘The Look’.
The following day during a trip to the seaside, we spotted a dog beach at the end of our walk. Several dogs were running after each other, bounding into the sea, clearly enjoying the beautiful day. I can never resist dogs. And then I saw it: a beagle! It looked just like L’il Sis’s recently departed ‘Pig’.
“Beagle Alert!” I yelled at Gill and pointed at the dog. I really wanted to pet the dog so I walked closer. The dog was having too much fun to stop. I noticed a group of women chatting nearby. Using the old ‘you don’t know if you don’t ask’ approach, I ambled close to the group and asked:”Excuse me, but do any of you ladies belong to the beagle?”
One lady turned around, horror on her face, and piped up:”Oh, what’s she done now?”
I laughed, remembering all the trouble The Pig used to get into. ..which led, of course, to a long discussion about beagles and their bratty tendencies. She managed to catch her dog and I did in fact get to pet it. It made my day!
Gill caught up with me and, shaking her head, said:”Ma! You can’t just go up to people and start conversations!”
“Want to make a bet? I can and I just did. They were lovely and we had a good chat about dogs.”
I met many other fascinating people — on the train, at a charity dog rescue display in Bath, in the airline waiting lounge coming home. To me, that’s one of the best parts of traveling.
I realize that Gill doesn’t like chatting with people (except those she knows well), but it would seem I’ve got that covered for both of us. The thought occurred to me that, since Gill doesn’t enjoy talking to people, I should be in charge of the publicity tour for her book! I’d love it, probably meet many dogs and dog lovers, and chat people up so thoroughly they’d buy a book just to stop me talking! Now that’s marketing…