Lunch With Strangers
On Tuesday morning I was preparing to leave the Palm Lake Front Hostel and meet one of my distant relatives, Jonathan Hall. Jonathan is my great-grandfather’s sister in-law’s Grandson. On the family tree he is of the same generation as my Mum and according to my cousin that makes him my second cousin once removed in-law. So you know when I said distant, I meant it.
Jonathan was raised in Jamaica and moved to Orlando with his family in 2002. He works for Exit Reality real estate and enjoys a flexible life style which enabled him to come and meet me for lunch before I had to catch a train from Kissimmee up the coast to Washington D.C. Kissimmee is just south of Orlando and leads to Disney World and is basically a highway littered with diners and motels. We stopped off in one of the many car parks and made our way to what we agreed was a lower than average Chinese restaurant. Over the food we chatted about what we did at home, what my plans were while I was in the States and our respective families. After we finished our meal, we cracked open our fortune cookies (a first for me!) and mine read “Act calm in an emergency crisis.” Jonathan laughed and he hoped that I wouldn’t need to use the advice. Once we had finished lunch, Jonathan dropped me off at Kissimmee Amtrak station from where I would begin my 18 hour train ride.
Atlantic Coast Amtrak
At the station, Jonathan told me that the trains had a reputation for running late, and there was only a twenty minute delay. At first I was thinking that’s not so bad, but when I came to think that Kissimmee was only the fourth or fifth stop the delay could build up to several hours. I thought nothing more if it and felt that it was simply something that I would have to deal with.
Once on the train I found myself next to Howard who I can best describe as a stereotypical American citizen. He spent much of the time talking about places that I should visit as we passed through them, ignoring my insistence that I would be heading north and introduced each station to me as a place of “real characters.” I thought that I had enough patience in the tank to hold out a couple of hours. I was wrong. Howard never let up, not when he saw that I was reading and even when I had my eyes closed and earphones in. For a while I felt like I was being rude, but once I had taken my earphones out and had actually fallen asleep, to be nudged awake to be informed of every station we pulled felt like vindication for my actions. Fortunately, the amount of room you get per seat is very accommodating to the stereotypical American in and I was able to stretch out in front of my chair and get a few hours sleep.
For a while I was left alone, but as the train jolted, I made the mistake of opening my eyes to hear Howard say “oh good.” and away he went, continuing with his constant talk of everything that we passed, regardless of whether my eyes were open or closed. I think that after a week, meeting one unsavoury American is a pretty good deal. I just hope I don’t get stuck next to another one for any more long journeys.
At around 10:00am the train pulled into a drizzly Union Station and I found my way to the Downtown Washington Hotel where I spent much of the afternoon recovering in front of the Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona.