Oh, the Characters You’ll Meet
(or: Part Two of Suzie and Anita’s Adventures and Misadventures)
|by Suzie Johnson|
Two weeks ago, we updated you on the train trip Anita and I took from Seattle to Anaheim. I wanted to update you soon after that, but I was without an internet connection – one of the misadventures that can occur when traveling. I’m finally home, but not finally rested. Still, I don’t regret a moment of my exhaustion. Anita and I have lots to share with you and today I want to tell you a little bit about some of the people we met because as we all know, people make life fun and interesting. I must add a quick disclaimer and say this is not intended as gossip or disparagement of any individual and I do feel blessed for meeting each of these people and I hope you’ll be able to see that.
Character number one: No, I
don’t mean Disney characters although Anita did get a beautiful close-up shot
of Disney’s newest princess Merida as she was kissing a lovely little girl on
the cheek… Oh, sorry. Back to the first character I met: Anita Mae Draper! She was waiting on the platform as the Amtrak Red
Cap drove me to my passenger car. I recognized her immediately, so we stopped
and hugged and I told her to hop on. She didn’t. That should have been my first
clue to her stubborn nature. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Stubbornness is a
good quality in my opinion; the mark of one who perseveres. Anita is also never without a camera in her hand, and she has a wry sense of humor. We laughed a lot. Truly I am blessed
by the time I spent with Anita.
|photo by Suzie Johnson|
|Anita and I have an agreement not to post pics of each other without permission. |
If you look carefully, you might be able to see a reflection of Anita holding her camera.
Does this count, Anita?
At one point, while the steward was taking orders from a different table, he turned and shouted, “Dean! Shut up!” Yes, really! And silly me, I thought he was joking. I would later learn that was not the case… And so it went during our dinner with Dean alternating between wanting my non-existent meatloaf and Anita’s non-attainable camera – while Dean’s harried but gentle wife tried to keep him under control.
|I can't show you a picture of Dean, |
but I can show you a picture of the camera he so deeply coveted!
Oh, and that's Anita's hand holding said camera.
This was not the last of our encounters with Dean. Every time he saw Anita, he asked for her camera. At one point, when I was sitting in the Parlour Car while Anita went back to the room for something, Dean came along and sat in Anita’s spot. He smiled his usual infectious smile then he looked at Anita’s camera sitting in the window. “Hey!” I could see the sparkle lighting his blue eyes and read his thoughts even as he uttered, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I borrowed your friend’s camera and you told her I stole it?”
Um, no…. Somehow I did NOT think that would be a good idea, nor did I think Anita would appreciate the joke. So I quickly snatched the camera and told him I didn’t think we should do that. He laughed, then sat and made small talk until his wife came to fetch him. I learned even more about Dean during that conversation, and my compassion for him grew. I truly believe after that conversation, that Dean has suffered trauma as a result of the war.
The next time we saw Dean was when we arrived at the train station in Los Angeles. He and his wife were waiting for the same train we were, to head into Anaheim. Dean came up to give Anita a hug (while his eye was on her camera) and she told him to stay back. The he came over to me. I was concentrating on sucking down my Starbuck’s iced tea, and not really paying attention until he pulled me into a hug. Then he said, “I really like you, but you know what?” He finally let go and pointed to Anita. “I like her better!” I laughed, but I somehow I don’t remember Anita laughing. Then the Red Cap came to fetch Anita and I, and that was the last we saw of Dean. Luckily Anita’s camera made it through unscathed.
I feel blessed to have met Dean. One: it gave me a deeper insight into the suffering of war veterans. Sometimes the suffering isn’t physical. Two: it showed me an example of a loving woman who stood by her vows “for better or for worse.” Three: Dean made me laugh and he’s a character I’ll remember forever. Four: It was an opportunity to pray for a stranger.
Character number three: Oh. My. I don’t even know how to tell you about this character without scaring people. I have to say upfront that 99% of the people who work on the train are wonderful! The train organization itself is wonderful. But no matter how good a business is there are always a few less-than-cheerful people who slip through the cracks. Enter Chef. (Again, not his real name and if you watch a certain show where people call the screaming man “Chef”, you will understand how I came up with this name.)
Chef was that man I mentioned before who yelled at Dean to “shut up”. Did your mother teach you that telling someone to ‘shut up’ is rude? Mine did. I don’t think Chef’s mother did. But remember, when I first heard him say it, I thought he was joking – until that same night at dinner. Oh. My.
|I can't show you a picture of Chef, |
so I thought I'd show you a picture of this lovely restaurant where
Susie D, Anita, and I ate called the Jazz Kitchen
Our dining experience here was a breath of fresh air!
That was not my last encounter with Chef. I went to the dining car the next day looking for my car attendant to see if she could help me find something. She wasn’t there, but one of the other stewards was and offered to help me. Chef yelled at her as we were leaving the dining car, and she yelled back, telling him to get a life. I immediately felt bad. No one liked Chef. I later found out that is literally the truth. Is that why he was so gruff and unpleasant? Does he have a horrible home life? Is he suffering from some kind of pain that keeps him from enjoying his job anymore?
So how was I blessed by meeting Chef? Again, it was a new insight into another character. Look deeper before you decide someone’s just mean. Is there a reason for it? Thinking through this deepened my compassion and once again I found a new person to pray for. I hope if Chef is ever on the train at the same time as me again, he will be happier and more relaxed.
Oh dear. I think I've used too many words. I have so many more characters to tell you about, but they’ll have to wait for another day. Soon. There are more coming up that you don’t want to miss. Good, bad, sweet, funny, oblivious – all of them a blessing put in our path by God.
|Is this Goofy, or Pluto? I can never be sure.|
Suzie Johnson’s debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, will be released by White Rose Press later this year. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man, who makes her proud every day, Suzie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and naughty little cat. You can visit her at the following places: