Editor’s note: In recent weeks, columnist Pat Price has written about her adventures befriending complete strangers. Those exploits are completed here.
As with most things, collecting strangers does not always work out.
As a matter of fact, after the following series of escapades, our children (now grown) forbid us to do it any more. Funny, we used to forbid them from doing things, but times change.
It all began on an Alaskan cruise when Sam and Sally turned up on the same ship (their names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent). Not being frequent travelers, they had packed over 90 pounds in each of their suitcases and had to toss things out and box them up at the airport. It made for a funny story. They were both very funny and we laughed a lot on the trip. Sam had just inherited $2 million and had asked his girlfriend on their first big adventure. We found out later that they had met at their psychiatrist’s office in New York City. Maybe that should have been a red flag.
At the end of the journey, we parted company with the promise to stay in touch. A few phone calls followed with Sally. The day her dog passed away she called us, her new friends in Ohio, the most important people in her life, to cry for half an hour. Another red flag?
Months later, Joe and I got a call. It was Sam saying that he and Sally were coming to Ohio to visit. Of course, I asked when this would happen and when he told me, I said that they could not come then because we had plans for that week. Needless to say, they came. We received a call just as they were passing over the border into Ohio. They had traveled through a level three winter storm all the way from Brooklyn and, to make a long story short, we had to cancel our plans.
They stayed for four days. They were four long days. During that time I slipped and told them that Joe and I were planning a trip to New York to see “Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Certainly, they both insisted, we would be staying with them.
We begged off for the two days we would be seeing theater, but agreed to hang out in Brooklyn for a couple of days after. That was not to be. Day one in the Big Apple, they met us and proclaimed that they would be taking us out to lunch. Sam had a particular place in mind, but we walked and walked and walked and he just couldn’t find it. His absolute refusal go any place but the one he couldn’t find was the first New York thing that got on our nerves. Finally, Joe stood firm and we stopped for a sandwich while Sam pouted.
Two days of just the two of us and theater followed and that was grand. My grandparents had both immigrated through Ellis Island, so I really wanted to go see it. At the hotel desk they urged us to take the subway stop right outside of the hotel and go first thing in the morning. Sam knew better. He announced that he would drive us.
Sadly, New Yorker Sam couldn’t find our hotel and we stood on the corner for over an hour. It was late morning before he negotiated the traffic to our destination. All of the parking garages were full. One, packed like a jigsaw of cars, agreed to take us for the flat fee of $40. Joe shelled out. The line for Ellis Island was miles long and, much to my chagrin, we had to give up.
The next stop was the deli where the famous “When Harry Met Sally” scene took place. Customers are given a ticket upon entrance and had to keep it until exiting or would have to pay a fine. I was seething, but I wasn’t the only one. It became apparent that, by this time, Sally had had plenty of Sam herself. We’d certainly had enough of them. Sally spat out a secret in my ear. He had already blown the $2 million! This in less than a year!
We stood firmly and lied, saying that Joe’s sister in Philadelphia was ill. In truth she had told us that she had a cold. We said that instead of going to Sam’s house for the next three days we would have to hop a train to Philly. We did ditch our return flight from New York on United to take Amtrak, which actually went through Philly (we waved as we passed) and continued to Baltimore where we boarded a Southwest plane straight to Cleveland and home sweet home.
It was then that our kids banned us from further collecting of people. So when we were in Canada last year and this kind of creepy couple we met told us we should stay at their house in Seattle instead of with our daughter, we declined.
See, we can learn, can’t we?
Pat Gorske Price graduated from Oberlin High School and taught English and drama there for 12 years. In retirement she continues to enjoy writing and theater. Comments can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.