Burlington, VT – July 1-3, 2013
Floating in the water off Manhattan is a good place to get your picture taken. Every other person seemed to lean over the railing to point their cell phone cameras at me. At first I smiled and waved, but it got so common and I was moving so slowly in the Hudson’s current, that I gave up and just focused on prying myself forward. No one seemed much interested in talking anyway, just pictures.
“Try and look like you know what you’re doing,” I told myself.
Then someone called out to me.
“Hey, you need a place to stay?” they said.
I looked up and saw a man standing at the railing with his bike about ten feet over my head. He didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, but he recognized a packed boat and didn’t need to know the details to offer help.
“No, thanks,” I yelled back up at him. “I’m staying with a friend of mine in Brooklyn.”
I had to shout to be heard above the wind.
“You sure?” the man asked. “There’s a garage up ahead where we could leave the boat.”
I shook my head, paddling to stay in place against the current.
“I’ve got a place already,” I said. “But thank you do much!”
The man nodded.
“Where are you headed anyway?” he asked.
“North to Lake Champlain and Montreal, then west to Minnesota,” I said.
The man thought for a moment, then said, “you got a place to stay in Burlington?”
“Not yet,” I said.
We both looked at each other for a moment then he held out his phone. I shouted up my number and he texted me.
“What’s your name?” I asked, adding him in my contacts.
“Doug,” he shouted down. “Talk to you soon.”
He waived goodbye and peddled off on his bike, leaving me to the current.
“Doug from Manhattan,” I wrote in my phone.
I stayed three nights in Burlington. I watched fireworks in the harbor. I rode bikes around town. I met his family. I learned a bit of French for Quebec. I fixed and replaced gear. I ate too much ice cream.
That’s luck, people might say, and they’re right, it was luck that he and I happened upon the same spot at the same time, but I got that same luck with a thousand other people along New York’s harbor and only Doug from Manhattan leaned over the rail and asked how he could help.
Sounds more like a choice to me.