Old guy. Cane. Black fleece vest. Black trucker’s cap. Black slacks. Black leather orthotic sneakers. He veers my way. I think he’s going to ask for help. Directions somewhere. How to get to baggage claim, maybe. His cane click clacks with every step.
“I don’t know,” he says when he gets a few feet away from me. He seems nice enough, I think. I’d be happy to help him.
He doesn’t miss a stride. “Your sled dog doesn’t look too spry.”
“Ah, yes. It was tough on her, I see,” he says and walks on by, chuckling to himself.
This is why I travel with a stuffed dog. For encounters like this.
After landing at Anchorage at 4:45 am and waiting until 6:00 for the rental car counter to open, I discovered I didn’t have a reservation. Well, I did but not at the airport. Rather at a downtown location. The good news was it totaled $300 less than the airport could offer. The bad was it was 20 minutes and $20 away and didn’t open for another two hours.
When my cab driver with the last name the same as my first dropped me off, I was greeted by darling Rachel, a young woman with a quirky sense of humor. Did I want the Toyota This or That? “They’re both in the same class but the This is nicer than the That. I think you’ll be happy with it.”
“Great. I trust you,” I said. Mostly I was too tired to make choices.
“Grey or silver,” she asked?
“Really. I have to choose between grey or silver?”
She punched a clicker and lights flickered on a vehicle outside the window. “That’s the grey,” she said.
“Do you have a preference?” I asked.
“The grey,” she said.
“Grey it its,” I said.
That was the end of the questions. She didn’t try to sell me insurance or a tank of gas or GPS or a child seat.
“Now I have a question,” I said.
“Shoot,” she said.
“Spelled G-y-n-n-i-e?” I asked
“G-w-e-n-n-i-e,” she said.
“What do you recommend I order?”
A smile spread across her face. “Well, I like the steamed clams.”
She nodded. The tendrils of hair piled on her head in a ponytail hop-scotched in joy. “Or the reindeer sausage and eggs,” she added.
So I drive the 3.8 miles to Gwennie’s in my grey Toyota This. A party entered after me. I heard a clickety clack. When I lift my head to glance their way, I see it’s my dog-loving old friend in black with the cane. He ordered the clams.
And this was my entry into Alaska.
I’ll write more about what I am doing here another time.