This past week I traveled to Orlando for work. After a contentious court hearing, and rude opposing counsel, I wearily made my way to Orlando International for my flight home.
I arrived a couple of hours early to try to get an earlier flight home. No bueno. I meandered towards security. When I arrived I saw the readout: “Estimated wait time 44 minutes.” Ugh. I had over an hour and a half until my flight, and I was hungry. I decided to go into the Italian Grill, get something to eat, and hopefully the rush hour TSA line would subside.
I grabbed a stool at the bar, ordered a glass of wine and dinner. There was one stool to my left that was empty. As I ate dinner, a man, balding and about 60, arrived and hopped up on the bar-stool. He put on headphones and ordered a beer. Guinness.
I watched the travelers go by. This is Orlando, so of course many of the travelers were extremely young, making their Mecca-like pilgrimage to see the great Mouse. I finished dinner and noticed the man next to me had taken off his headphones and was sitting quietly.
“Where are you from?" I said.
“Ireland." He smiled.
“Really?!” I said. “I have some friends and their daughter is an exchange student in Italy. But she recently went to Ireland for about a month and loved it. Everyone I know that has been there loves it.”
“Oh yes, the Irish are a very nice people.”
He is a cargo shipper and had been in town to meet with companies that need things shipped overseas.
“We’re trying to get these companies to do business with us…but I think it’s a bunch of bullshawt,” he said with a smile and a thick Irish brogue.
I told him I was a lawyer. He asked if I could help with international cargo business law?
“I do a lot of divorce and custody.” He beamed and told me he had been happily married for 34 years. I told him that was awesome and congratulated him. He said he was ready to get home. I said I was too.
He said a couple of his meetings were in Jacksonville. I told him that was about two hours drive north, right? He said it took him three, but he probably could have made it in two if he had been “a more seasoned campaigner” on American roads. A more seasoned campaigner? I need to learn to talk like this guy.
I asked if he had had a good trip and he said for the most part, yes. Then he got a bit philosophical. “The hotel where I stayed was this magnificent large building with all types of interesting things. My room was many, many stories high and overlooked the interior all the way down to the lobby. It was pretty, but seemed to lack…soul.”
I told him I knew what he meant. I liked older things with character. I have no idea why, but I was compelled to tell him about my trip to Tuscany a few years ago, to a small town there with a tower in the middle of town. You could climb up in the tower and you had a 360-degree view of Tuscany – miles and miles of hills covered in olive trees and vineyards. I felt like I was looking back in time.
He said “Aye…last month my wife and I went to a small village we love in Tuscany. There are hotels, but we get a small cottage each time we go. There is a large clock near the cottage. This last time we arrived and got settled at the cottage and I sat out in front and looked at the clock…4:59…I knew in just a matter of seconds that the clanging would start.” He got a slight smile on his face as he told me this. Then he closed his eyes, as if transporting himself back to a few weeks ago in that village. “And I sat and closed my eyes and waited for the clock to strike 5:00…and it did…DONG….DONG….and I counted each time to 5 times. And then the sound ended.” Opening his eyes he said, “There was something comforting about that…knowing that the same clock had been doing that for who knows how long.”
I smiled in understanding. “Very nice. The town that I was talking about also has this cool wall built all the way around it. It had been built many centuries ago for protection. So much history there!”
He looked at me slightly astonished. “You were in Lucca?”
“Yes,” I said, “that’s the town in Tuscany I was telling you about…you’ve been there?”
He smiled and said, “That’s the village I was just telling you about.” We couldn’t believe it. What are the odds?
The TSA line was drastically shorter now. Time to go.
“Well, I better head out. I’m Kevin, by the way.”
“Good to meet you Kevin, I’m Pawt.”
“Pawt, Pawt…you know, short for Pawtrick.”
“Ohhhhhhhh Pat….You’re saying Pat for Patrick!” I laughed.
“Aye!” he said.
Then it hit me: “So I really just spoke with an Irishman named Patrick?”
He laughed, “It’s a very, very common name in Ireland. My dad was Patrick too.” Then he got a bit more serious, “But he went by Patty, I’m just Pat.” To him that seemed to make a world of difference.
“Well, safe travels Pat.”
“You too Kevin.”