I read something a few days ago that sent me searching for this picture. Humans of New York featured a woman in Uganda who described the happiest moment of her life as a one-time-never-again meeting. I immediately thought of two such meetings that I have had.
One occurred a long time ago and has since taken on a rather mystical position in my memory bank. I had just started my drive home from work at my dad's auto body shop and noticed a man walking on the side of the road dressed in complete Japanese rice farmer gear. I had never seen him before, this was in Kona, Hawaii, and it was not Halloween. He was a tall white man and wore the hat, coat, leggings and woven sandals of a Japanese farmer.
I remember watching him in my rear view mirror until I lost sight of him and then kept looking ahead for clues. Less than a mile away, life turned into a slow motion film. A car in the opposite lane came to an abrupt stop, forcing a truck right behind it to brake hard, causing a trailer to jack-knife, sending the trailer and the boat sitting on top of it, straight toward me. It seemed as though I had a lot of time to react. I swerved to the right, missed a few parked cars and ended up in someone's driveway. No rear-end or head-on collisions occurred.
It was all a near miss, except that I was left with a full tank of adrenaline racing through my body so I turned around and headed back to my dad's shop. On the way, I kept looking for the strolling rice farmer but he was gone. I never saw him again and over the years, I have thought of him as my safe-keeper.
Second meeting. A volcano in Iceland erupted in May of 2011 while I was on the way back from a trip to Morocco with a group of girlfriends. All but one of us decided to skip London rather than risk getting stalled in Europe. Some headed to east coast airports. Three of us landed at Dallas/Forth Worth Airport and were met by flashing lights, alarms, and loud speaker messages telling us to seek shelter. Tornadoes were landing, shutting the airport down and halting nearly 200 departures. About 10,000 people were stranded there*.
After a few hours, flights were scheduled and then canceled, one after the other. We played musical gates and eventually, the three of us split up to find our own flights to various cities in California. I needed to get to San Francisco where my family was gathering for my brother's 50th birthday.
Several futile hours later, I knew that I had to wait until morning and the chances of getting to and/or finding a hotel in the storm, were next to nothing. I wandered into a waiting area with lots of empty seats and found two familiar faces. One woman, I'd met on an empty tram over to the terminal and we ended up standing next to each other in line. The other, was in a waiting line for another counter but we made eye contact every time someone lost their cool with a ticket agent. We shared the same thought bubble as we took turns rolling our eyes.
Three women: one white, one black and one yellow (I'm being descriptively equal). The blonde found us cots and it's the top of her head you see in the photo, in front of my camel riding Nikes. Through the night, we looked after each other's luggage if one had to take a bathroom break or find a vending machine. We were tired and really didn't feel like talking, yet we bonded. My original travel companions had been quickly replaced.
Early the next morning, I decided to make a bathroom run to brush my teeth and look alive for a possible flight out. Not wanting to wake my friends, I took my suitcase and purse with me. On my way back, one of the ticket counters had just opened and I walked up to check on a possible seat. I found out that I had a chance to get on a flight that was leaving from another terminal, if I hurried. I never made it back to say 'good-bye' and 'thank you' to the ladies and I probably will never see them again.
I remember those one time meetings with a warm, joyful lift and a deep breath. Because of memory, I can say thank you without saying goodbye. I wish those three people are all having a good life, filled with sweet memories, just as I am.