Denver, Colo. — had never been there before. This was just a layover from San Francisco, but I was glad to be on the ground again; a place to ground myself as it were, before the last leg to Orlando, Fla., where I was headed for a long weekend. As you do, I had forgotten just how far the East Coast was from the West on my business/pleasure outing; especially since the airline was a big bargain basement offering, to say the least. (“If you would like an actual hard-plastic seat, that will be extra …” Even glasses of water cost on this airline!)
There were lots to look at in the Denver terminal; but, despite the lure of amazingly ornate cowboy boots, food was a priority. I found an almost European wine bar. Smoked salmon was on the menu; always good. I ordered and sat myself down to relax, with a good hour to kill before we would be boarding. Time to check on emails and Facebook and see if I had missed anything in the last couple hours. I hadn’t.
“My name is Deborah. Can I sit with you?” She was an ash-blonde lady, about my age, dressed in tennis clothing. “Well, of course, Deborah. I’m all by myself,” I said. “How are you?” I responded. She smiled. “I am so good. I’m traveling to Kentucky to meet with my favorite girlfriends in the whole wide world and celebrate a 50th birthday,” she chuckled. “Well, Deborah,” I responded. “I’m crossing the country for the weekend on a business/pleasure trip that I didn’t have to take,” I laughed too. My smoked salmon arrived. “Oh, that looks so good,” she said and ordered the same. We looked at each other. We knew that, at another time, another place, we could have been friends. She told me where she was at in life and I told her. We were both enacting the “Carpe Diem” theory of ‘do it while you can and you still want to’. We sipped a little sauvignon blanc together and then I had to go and get in line for my plane. “So soon?” she said, whining just a little. “I’m sorry, Deborah. I’ll miss my plane and then I will have to come to Kentucky with you, which would be weird, and my friends would wonder what the hay happened to me on the way to Orlando … Who gets lost on the way to Orlando?” We laughed.
“Bye, Deborah from Denver,” I said. “Bye Lucy from Cali.” I realized that you can only have these really random and rather special exchanges in life, if you take the time to look up from your phone and visit with the world around you. All over the airports I traveled through, folk, young and old, could not have known where they were, because they were all focused on the tiny screens in front of them. They were visiting with realms outside their current geographical being and that was not necessarily a good thing. Don’t we all travel to get away from our day-to-day? Deborah from Denver had not glanced at her phone once during our time together in the wine bar, and neither had I. I imagine that she went on to her girlfriend’s 50th with a small tale about this wacky mirror image of herself that she spent time with at the airport, wondering all the time if this was actually a dream-like encounter that never really happened.
I then went on to enjoy the strange stimulation of Florida in the spring. The complete political opposite of where I live and the strangeness of it all enveloped me like a rainstorm I hadn’t expected. Where were the Latino population? Where was the Mexican food and the mountains? The ag lands and the vineyards? I realized that I don’t always appreciate the mountains on both sides of my home and I vowed to rectify that. Florida is flat. Long, straight flat roads with green stuff either side, like a long pathway to nowhere. It has a boat culture I don’t understand and a border attitude I could never entertain; but it was certainly fun for the weekend and we had tremendous laughs at the water park, surrounded by people who were all looking down at the phones and exchanging with folks in Saint Elsewhere.
It’s good to learn new things, when you step outside of your comfort zone. I love trying new things, venturing forth to places I have never been and navigating systems I have never encountered. I had been to Florida a long time ago, taking my baby girl to Disney when she was just a toddler. I had forgotten that the roadways are a series of tolls and you had better get in the correct lane or face the consequences. I had, perhaps, never known that there is no State tax in Florida, but they have to get the money from somewhere else and they do. It had slipped my mind about the fact that it is basically a huge swamp and there is water everywhere. If your place is not netted and you sit outside, you will be in big trouble come the summer time. I had forgotten all of that - oh and the fact that they hate California. What’s to hate? I found myself chewing on my tongue on more than one occasion and realized that I love California with all her bumps and bruises and income tax; not to mention her lack of annoying road tolls.
Sometimes you need to go away to really come back home again. I was so happy when I made it safely back to my imperfect home on my imperfect land in this imperfect State of California; because it’s perfect for me and my family and it is the place I call home, nestled between two glorious mountain ranges and neighbor to a glorious and perfect vineyard. Sometimes you have to leave your physical home to be reminded of where your home truly is.
And the Deborahs of the world don’t hurt a thing either. Just put down your social media and your constant email and let the broad sit at your table, like a mirror image of yourself with her smoked salmon and her sauvignon blanc. You might learn a thing or two if you do.
Lucy Jensen is a local realtor and fond traveler. Contact her at [email protected]