I packed seven pairs of reading glasses and five books for my vacation in America. After writing about my tendency to lose glasses, a reader kindly sent me several pairs and I had ordered extras online. I don’t know what I was really thinking about bringing all those books and reading glasses to America. It wasn’t exactly a relaxing vacation, reading, lying on a lounge chair. It was more of a vacation in line and on foot, but I really hadn’t realized that when I was packing.
Perhaps wisely, they don’t advertise Orlando and that city’s sprawling theme parks, which contain, for just two examples, a Magical Kingdom and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as a queue vacation. waiting and walking, but both are integral to the experience. .
And while I’m extremely resistant, even allergic, to both walking and queuing, I’m not complaining. Somehow the folks at Walt Disney, Universal Studios and Sea World have created a situation where you walk up to 35,000 steps a day and stand in line for several hours in the hot sun and you feel elated at the end of each evening. It’s really magical.
The walk to the taxi stand was sweaty so obviously I had to stop along the way for an ice cold margarita the size of my head.
A few days into my vacation queuing and walking in the US, I had somehow misplaced the padded brown envelope containing the multiple reading glasses and I was left with just one pair. I reluctantly left the wonderful surroundings of Diagon Alley, where there’s a fire-breathing dragon outside Gringotts and where you can drink real butterbeer, to buy a spare pair of goggles and some birthday cards for a celebration the next day. The hunt for glasses and birthday cards, I thought, would also provide a rare chance to experience a little glimpse of the real America outside of the theme park’s controlled environs.
The walk to the taxi stand was sweaty so obviously I had to stop along the way for an ice cold margarita the size of my head. At the bar, I met two nice, smart ladies from New Jersey. The conversation got real and deep very quickly. We discussed grief, abusive relationships, and Biden’s America.
“I voted for Trump,” one of the women said. Then we talked about his reasons and his regrets about it for a while. I asked them where to find birthday cards and reading glasses and they told me to find a Dollar Tree.
I had taken a cab to the same place the day before and was charged $40 for a short ride because “that’s the price of gas ma’am, I can charge you $5 less if we stop at an ATM and you pay in cash”. I couldn’t get the Uber app to work – it was much cheaper – so I was at the mercy of taxis again.
I sat down warily in one and asked how much it would cost, surprised to hear the driver say “nine or ten dollars”. My taxi driver’s name was Eve, he said. “Unusual for a man,” I remarked. “Yves,” he says. “Like Yves Saint Laurent.”
Yves was in his 60s and originally from Haiti. He came to America decades ago and remembered when most of the land around these areas was swamp. His favorite American president was Jimmy Carter. “An honest man,” he said.
He was happy with the life he had made in America. He had a home, a job, a wife, and well-educated adult children. “I remember hearing one thing about America,” he told me. “That as a country it can give you all the tools to succeed and can also give you all the tools to fail. I could have done better, I could have continued my studies, done better economically, I had the tools. But I am happy and I am grateful to this country.
We talked about Ireland. About Dublin. He asked “your second city, Cork isn’t it?”. He said he had read a lot about geography and history. We arrived at the Dollar Tree, he dropped me off and we said goodbye.
I was sitting there sweating on the bench, trying to read my phone and thinking, ‘if only I had Yves’ number, I could call him’ when the same man appeared in front of me, sort of haitian mirage
At the Dollar Tree, I bought birthday cards, mini American flags, a few fans and balloons. At checkout when the cashier asked how I was doing I said “great” and when I asked how she was she said she just “threw a really bad man on the sidewalk”, so she was doing much better now thank you very much. We laughed and I paid.
Outside ready to head back to the hotel, I still couldn’t get my Uber app to work. The sun was relentless so I walked alongside an air-conditioned TJ Maxx. There was a bench just inside the door, where I sat and tried to figure out how to get a taxi. I completely forgot to buy reading glasses at the Dollar Tree and realized as I sat there that somewhere on the way from the margarita bar to here I had lost my only pair remaining.
I was sitting there sweating on the bench, trying to read my phone and thinking, “if only I had Yves’ number, I could call him” when the same man appeared in front of me, some kind of mirage Haitian.
Yves clutched my cheap reading glasses in his hand. “You left them in the taxi,” he explained. “You told me you were going to the Dollar Tree and I went there but I couldn’t find you. Then I thought, where else would she go, and I thought of TJ Maxx, and there you are.
That’s where I was. Sultry and uplifting in the real America which at that time was much like the real Ireland but much, much warmer. And I couldn’t help but smile in the coolness of Yves’ taxi to my hotel.