2004-02-07

Celebrity


Towards the end of my road walk in Florida, a resort on Long Key in the town of Layton offered the only convenient option for lodging. Having already stayed in places with broken bathrooms, unwashed sheets, and dirty walls, I simply wanted a secure landing place from which I could depart before dawn. Okay, this time I would pay double the cost of a trucker’s motel.

Across the bridge to Long Key, the vegetation in remote, outlying areas blocked the wind. The heat verged on oppressive. My path carried me over the disturbing charred spot of a recent car wreck. Roadside scenes such as this were difficult to ignore when traveling at 3 miles per hour on foot.

Eventually I arrived in Layton, consisting mainly of a fire and police station, where a town dinner was being planned. I reported to the cooks that I had placed a lost license plate beside a police cruiser. The cooks told me to keep my trophy and come back for dinner, too.

So I checked in at the resort and headed for the hot tub. Then I resupplied at the convenience store, socialized at the town party, and broke away to turn in early. Despite feeling groggy, I decided to relax in the hot tub one more time. Gale force winds blew off the water, but the hot tub made any discomfort vanish.

The young man sharing the tub had just driven with his wife and another couple from Michigan, chased by a big snowstorm. Incredulous about my walk, he began praising me enthusiastically. Somehow in his mind, his adventure had been rewarded by meeting me.

Thinking out loud, as if he were planning to tell friends about this chance event, he recited the outline of my story. “I know I talk a lot,” he said. Then he recounted the whole story all over again, adding how impressed he was. After my fifteen minutes of fame concluded, I excused myself and retired to bed.

Shortly afterward, there was a knock at the door. I put my clothes on and answered the door. Evidently the young man had observed which room I retired to, because he brought his wife to meet me. They made a very attractive couple.

“Honey,” he said, “This man walked ALL the WAY to FLORIDA!” As we shook hands, his wife said, “I know he talks a lot. It’s very nice to meet you.” Somehow, she seemed genuinely glad to meet me. As I closed the door, I too felt his sense of elation, for just a moment.

Later, when a noisy car passed me on the road, with arms waving out the windows, I figured it was them. After being mistaken for a criminal, I didn’t much mind their celebration.

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