My husband and I are friendly types, though not overtly so. We smile when smiled upon. We do our part in picking up a dangling comment on the weather whenever a stranger volleys one in our direction. We graciously respond to questions about the place we call home. But never do we initiate contact – especially when on vacation.
We don’t travel to strike up temporary friendships with fellow travelers. People, like my husband — who still works full-time — travel to get away, to enjoy a little down-time. So we’ve never felt a need to converse with strangers, maybe because from where we come from, strangers want to stay that way. But if today’s train ride into Denali Park is anything to go on, our “not-overtly-friendly” years may be drawing to a close.
This is a big year in our married life since we both turn 55. Alaska is our ‘bon voyage’ into what we hope will become our golden travel years. But today taught me I’ve got to ‘up’ my game if I want to make it on the senior travel circuit. Fifteen minutes out of the train station, as my husband and I were quietly studying our Alaska Rail travel brochures, I heard a woman with a Texas drawl come up the aisle visiting with the mostly senior crowd. When she reached our row, she began talking with the couple sitting across from us. She squealed upon learning they too were from Texas.“Whereabouts in Texas?” “Crawford. You know, where President Bush has his ranch.” “Do you know him?” “No. These days we don’t even know when he’s at the ranch. No helicopters, you know.”
From there, the conversation took off. I tried not to eavesdrop, but when I heard they came from Texas, I got interested in spite of myself. And when I heard the lady from Crawford tell her new found friend that her husband once worked for Dow Chemical in Freeport, I found myself blurting out, “My husband does too.”
My faux pas broke their momentum a little. But it wasn’t any time before they were back on track. Until the woman sitting mentioned she was a retired CPA … and of course, I butted in again. “I’m a CPA too.”“Where did you work? “Well, I worked at Arthur Andersen for a number of years, but I ended up at Intermedics when I moved to Texas.” “You are not going to believe this….but I interviewed at Arthur Andersen too. But when I graduated in 1962, Arthur Andersen hired only men. They apologized to me, but that’s just how it was back then. I understood.”
Well, from there, our conversation took off. We talked about everything: Stock investments…surgeries….religion.
There’s really not a long story short when traveling in senior circles. Preliminaries like the weather and exchanging hometowns are merely appetizers to the main course, where nothing about one’s life is considered sacred. Who know what heights we’ll reach if we reconnect in a couple of days – would you believe we’re taking the same cruise?