The old man sat next to me on the slow train into London. Like so many others on board I was passing time staring at a tiny screen.
The old man asked, ‘What did you do before you had a mobile phone?’ ‘I stared out of the window, read, sketched, wrote and sometimes talked’ I said, and so, twenty five minutes before reaching Victoria station, our conversation began.
The old man studied American history, ‘Abraham Lincoln forever, and all that,’ he said. Turns out he’s a Packers fan and so we talked of American football, cheese heads, Vikings, Broncos, Seahawks, Raiders and more. ‘I’ve never been to the United States’ the old man told me, and I explained that’s where I was journeying to. ‘I like the sound of Baton Rouge, it has a nice name’, he said. Somewhat surprised I replied ‘that’s where I’m heading.’
We talked about the trip I took to New York City with my late father. I told the old man about the sights we saw and added, ‘we even went to see the ice hockey.’ ‘The Rangers?’ Asked the old man. ‘Indeed’ I said, and we spoke of sport and our separate experiences of listening to US forces radio bouncing crackly live signals from various sports on the medium wave.
With Victoria approaching, and with twenty five minutes passing like twenty five seconds, we shook hands and wished each other well. He continued his journey to the midlands to watch Wolverhampton Wanderers take on Peterborough, and I headed for the airport, to catch my flight to Baton Rouge.
I’m well and truly back from the USA. The jet lag has passed, the laundry is done and I’m rapidly back to speaking English English not American English (pants, chips, taxis – you get the picture). And a few things remain powerfully uppermost in my mind about the trip.
The Stars and Stripes is everywhere. To me it represents a powerful symbol for integrating the difference without losing it. I like seeing the national flag about the place, and I hope the UK continues it’s renewed interest in flags beyond the Jubilee celebrations and particularly the Olympics and Paralympics. I’m stuck on the whole republic/monarchy thing. I’m not a fan of the royal family per se, and nor do I want President Blair/Brown/Cameron/Clegg or whoever for that matter. But the flag can and should be about the people, and I think it was great to see it flying everywhere here through our sporting summer. Long may that continue – fly your flag.
Being on the road is great fun, and at the same time being away from your family sucks. Being made to feel so very welcome by so many people (and the pic above could have been soooooo much bigger), was fantastic. It felt so natural and it meant so much.
People warned me about this. Those Americans – they’re so bloody enthusiastic! Actually it was said in a good way but I was left flying over to the US wondering how this enthusiasm thing would play out. What I experienced was probably closer to willingness, being more open to possibilities. As with everything you find a balance that hopefully suits you and I am an optimist by nature, but I’ve come back from America thinking even more determinedly about the yes than the no.
Because we like to take thing in in different ways I’m closing this post with a visual summary of my experience. I hope you’ll take a look, it clocks in at around 30 seconds so it’s not your usual post trip slideshow bonanza. And it has a rocking soundtrack.
Hot off the Press
I’m very excited to find out that in April 2013 I’m off to Louisiana to take part in their annual state HR conference. More on this soon.