Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear stranger I sat next to in the airport shuttle,

It was a long ride from the airport into Denver, am I right? It was cold and wet outside, and there was some snow happening. The windows in the van fogged up before we even got started. As we drove, the streetlights bloomed but never clarified through the mist.

It was a long enough ride that it was possible for me to listen to an entire conversation between you and someone at the other end of your phone. It was weird, stranger. Really damn weird, to be sitting right by you and have you chatting away to your . . . friend? co-worker? I couldn't really tell, but it was hard not to speculate. She's going through some difficult times, though, I can tell you that. I felt for her.

I felt for her especially at first, because you kind of seemed like a know-it-all. (Takes one to know one. Yeah, I know.) Like, everything she said--I gathered this, because there were pauses in the your-end-of-the-conversation talking--you'd have a ready-made, prefab answer for. And I kept thinking your voice sounded so clipped, brisk. A little self-satisfied.

Then I thought, wait--who called whom? Maybe this person, your friend, called you, stranger, and you were just being the friend who listens and supplies answers in return. You know, like you do. Sometimes a friend just needs that, someone who will listen and fill in the blanks.

Then we pulled off the freeway--I never thought an off-ramp Seven-Eleven looked more beautiful, an indication that I might soon be checked in, tucked away, with some food, finally. Your voice changed. It was softer. I heard you tell your friend--must have been your friend--that when someone in the family died, people checked in on you, because they wanted to make sure you were doing okay. You told your friend to drive safely. And that was it.

Our driver dropped people off at the Marriott, the Hyatt, the Four Seasons, and then I was out the door. I checked in, ordered some room service, called home, watched Nashville, and thought again about you.

I think you're probably a pretty nice person, stranger.

(It was still a little unsettling to have been press-ganged into your conversation. I'm just saying.)



  1. Thanks for capturing this moment and giving it the HTMS slant. Truly.

  2. The "prove-you're-not-a-robot" word was "chileto." Which makes me think of small chiles. Which makes me want to fall into a trough . . .

  3. Eavesdropping is a secret pleasure of public transport

  4. Why don't you just buy the house next door so we can be closer? I'm just saying...

  5. And do you watch Nashville? Because I need someone to tell me if it's good before I risk it.



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