Won a Trip, Made a Friend
The Adventure Begins
Back in late August of 1991, there was a morning when I was reading the day’s newspaper, at a job I’d recently started. I came across a full-page ad for a travel expo sponsored by a major airline company. I hadn’t been on a vacation for a few years, so I decided to attend and maybe get some ideas on where I might go for a vacation. At a minimum, I could pick up some brochures and daydream about going to exotic and interesting places!
There was no question that I was going to the expo. But I felt a little shy about going by myself, so I asked a gal-pal to come with me. She was quite a vacation/travel queen and I thought we’d have a fun time. To entice her even more, I told her about the nearby Antique Show, knowing what a sucker she was for antique jewelry, handbags and accessories! She agreed to go – but only if her boyfriend came with us, and only if we went to the opening of the new Library (what the boyfriend wanted to do), and only if we went to the antique show BEFORE going to the travel expo. I agreed to her terms. I even agreed to be the designated driver for this full day’s excursion. (Thank goodness I later learned to go to things like this by myself!)
I barely remember picking up her and her boyfriend and going to the Library. The trip from there to the antique show is also a blur. However, at the antique show I DID manage to snag a gorgeous pair of earrings that I still have and wear to this day! Finally, finally as we’re leaving the antique show for the travel expo, my gal-pal announced that the boyfriend wasn’t feeling well and they’d decided to pass on the travel show and go home. In a nanosecond, I had to decide whether to drive them back home and miss the travel show or to wish them well and go to the show by myself. I chose the latter.
The Winner is WHO?
When I got to the entrance to the travel show and was paying my admission fee, the cashier shoved a postcard toward me and said to fill it out. I barely looked at it – some entry for a free trip. I filled it out and dropped it in a barrel on my way into the show. I’d never win anything before, but just in case…..
I spent at least an hour walking the aisles, stopping at exotic travel booths, and picking up brochures. As I was doing my last walk-thru, I heard my name being blasted through a loudspeaker. Something like “And the winner of the England vacation for two is . . .. “ And the name they announced was MINE! It was one of the eeriest moments I’ve ever experienced. From where I was standing, I could see the person making the announcement. He was standing on a stage with 5 or 6 others. I guess I froze in place. Then I watched him make the announcement again: “The winner of the England vacation for two is . . . .” ME!!! I felt as if I’d stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone. I was in such disbelief and astonishment that I very quietly and nonchalantly walked towards the stage. (As opposed to a gleeful sprint!) I took so long that by the time I got to the stage, the announcer and his entourage had moved off the stage and were standing on the side. But I heard them saying my name again, amongst themselves. So I approached the group and identified myself (“Excuse me –Did you call my name?”) And then ensued another Twilight Zone moment.
Into the Twilight Zone of Astonishment
The announcer/group quickly hustled me up onto the stage. The small crowd began congratulating me and shoving envelopes and papers into my trembling hands. Camera flashes were popping. And I was in total disbelief! Stunned speechless! When the excitement died down, the sponsors of the trip I’d won – a group of three representing UK Tourism – hustled me to their booth for more pictures, papers, and brochures, and to chat a bit. I don’t recall what they asked me nor what I said. I was still too stunned to be coherent. I kept thinking “I can’t believe this is happening to ME!!!” But in a good way for a change!
The Winning Moments Continue
I visited with the England group long enough to get their names – Ray, Rob, and a woman whose name I cannot recall all these years later. I think at the time she was an assistant to one of the men. After an hour or so and still “drunk” from the elation of my winning experience at the travel show, I left and headed straight to my gal-pal's place. I couldn’t wait to tell her of my good fortune, and perhaps make her envious for backing out on me at the last minute. She was happy for me – in an understated way. I’m sure she realized that had she come with me, SHE might have won the trip. But she didn’t come with me, and I’d won the trip. And it was a trip for TWO! Did she wonder if I would invite her to go with me? I‘ll never know. I didn’t invite her and we are no longer friends. The friendship didn’t disintegrate over this – as far as I know.
Finding the Kindred Spirit
Prior to this “winning moment” I’d never won anything of value. I had never been outside of the continental United States. I’d never developed a friendship with anyone from another country/culture. But during the “promo chat” with the UK tourism folks, I made a connection with one of them – Ray. (The other two were a bit too stiff.) At the time, he was the “Minister of Tourism” for the town of Beverley. And he insisted on taking pictures of me for the local newspaper. What a character! The epitome of an “English Gentleman” – with a FABULOUS wit and sense of humor!
Ray has became one of my very best friends. We have stayed in touch through all these years; at first through LONG hand-written letters, then later by email and sometimes by an overseas phone call! I have been to England twice since that “winning trip” and managed to have a visit with him each time. In 1999, he had the opportunity to come to the U.S. again and we had a fabulous time together. Oh, wasn’t I the envy of my former traveling companions!
Though Ray is about 15 years older than I, we seem to be “kindred spirits" – despite the fact that he is male and I am female, he is white and I am not, he is English and I am American, he has been married 2 or 3 times and has grown children and is a grandfather, yet I have never been married and have no children. Above all those differences, we are the best of friends! We share our stories of relationships, job stress, family stress, triumphs and tribulations.
You Just Never Know
Who knew that such a chance moment – deciding not to leave with my ‘friends’, filling out some entry form at a travel expo - would change and enhance the rest of my life? Until I won and went on the trip to England, I had NEVER seriously considered traveling outside the continental U.S. (because it takes so long!). And when I was chatting with those friendly folks from England after winning the trip they sponsored, I never dreamed that one of them would become such a good friend – a life-long friend. I think it was then that I realized how a snap decision can change your life forever – in a GOOD way! If I had not attended the travel expo after my friend and her boyfriend bailed on me, I would have never met Ray and (probably) never gone to England.