A huge beaming smile and long, wild white hair.
We’re walking back to the RV after shopping, pushing the cart of things we need to pack away. You’re exiting a smaller RV parked right next to us in the back forty of the Walmart. You see us and, impossibly, the smile grows.
“Is that your rig?!” In gleeful tone, you’re nearly shouting at me, like an excited kid. I like you immediately, and my own smile works my cheek muscles to try and mirror yours as I respond, “Yes!,” I answer, stopping to talk as the kids walk on ahead.
“You drive here from California?! How long you been on the road?” When you speak it’s like you’re barely able to contain some huge happiness, I love the sound of it, it makes me feel like you’re proud of me for doing something amazing. I don’t even know you and your joy has transferred.
“Yep! We’re currently living in it, this is our ninth month on the road. We left California on labor day last year.”
You’re staring at me but something’s wrong. You put one hand on my arm and with your other grab a small laminated card hanging on a cord around your neck. You hold the card up for me to read and say, “I should have told you, you’re talking to a ghost.” I must look confused because you clarify, “I’m deaf.”
Not knowing how to modify the conversation you initiated based on this new information, I laugh at your ghost joke and nod. You’ve already made physical contact so I touch your shoulder as I chuckle. Deaf or not, we’re good.
We have a grand, repetitive, and humorously loud conversation for several minutes. I’m sure to enunciate and give you clear view of my face. You follow incredibly well. I see my family settle in to wait-out the latest, “Dad met someone in the parking lot and now they’re best friends,” moments.
You’re also full-time in the RV. You live here in Maine but spend six months each year in Florida. “They call me Mr. Florida!,” you say. We trade tips and tricks of the lifestyle. “Always use the cruise control downhill,” you say, “The engine’ll brake for you and save your brakes.” I nod knowingly. “395 will get you north same as 95 but without the tolls.”
At some point you tell me that you don’t use the toilet in the RV, but instead poop in a bucket you then dump on the side of the road. I find this on odd thing to tell a stranger in a get-to-know conversation. You show me the inside of your rig, it looks like I’d imagine the inside of a rig of a guy who poops in a bucket would.
But you look clean, kept. You smell washed, your hair isn’t ratty even though it’s not combed. You’re so thrilled at our family’s present lifestyle choice. Several times you touch me lightly and say seriously, “Oh, it’s so great what you’re doing Dad! It’s amazing. I’m so happy for you.”
Our interaction, though a bit overlong, brightens my day.
Good travels, Mr. Florida!