Things can change very quickly out here on the road. I can hit the highest highs, and the lowest lows, all in the space of a couple hours.
I spent most of the other day walking through the city of Denizli. Denizli is a city of half a million people, and as such is much noisier, smellier, and crowded than the small villages I’ve been passing through for the last couple weeks.
I was in a bad mood, feeling blue and projecting my negativity onto the whole world around me. I passed through Denizli as quickly as I could, slowed by my still-healing foot, but determined to escape the noise and exhaust fumes.
At the edge of the city I came upon a gas station and thought to myself that might make a good place to end the day. I sat at the station for a while, sipping cold water and chatting with the station owner. The shadows were growing longer and my brain told me it was time to call it a day, but something else told me to keep going.
I moved on to a smaller village down the road. It looked a little run-down, and I thought the prospects of finding a place to stay there that night were pretty dim. I walked up to yet another gas station anyway.
I hadn’t even been at that station 5 minutes when in walked three stunningly gorgeous young women.
One of them walked straight over to me, stuck out her hand, and introduced herself. In two weeks on the road not once had I experienced this kind of directness from a woman, and I drank it in like a parched man who has just crossed the desert drinks in a cool, tall glass of water.
She had read about me in the news. She knew my name, where I was going, and how long it would take me to get there.
Her friends came over. The three women sat down next to me, lit up their cigarettes, and turned on the “giggly-girl flirty works” big time.
In my two weeks on the road I’ve run into a seemingly endless supply of hospitality, but I haven’t run into many flirtatious young women. So they had me at “hello.” In less than 30 seconds I was complete putty in their hands.
My language skills were not refined enough to return their volleys, but I think that just made the exchange all the more fun for them. They stayed for about 20 minutes, said all the right things, pulled all the right strings, and then they left as quickly as they had come.
After they left I continued sitting in the air-conditioned room, watching a basketball game on TV and trying to wipe the grin off my face. I wondered what I had done to deserve such an abundance of riches from above.
Later that evening I joined the gas station’s night crew outside for a bit of TV watching and sunflower seed-munching, then I turned in, laying my sleeping bag out on the floor in the nearby office while the crew divided their time between watching TV and running out to greet customers.
Just an hour or two earlier I had been feeling tired and lonely yet again, and here I was now, flying high as a kite. All it took to totally change my mood and make me look forward to another day was a smile. Those young women probably had no idea how their small actions had radically changed another person’s day.
By the way, at one point in the conversation with the girls I pulled out a wedding invitation someone at another rest stop had given me earlier that day. At that point I had been in no mood to be social, and I was thinking about not going.
But during the conversation with the girls one of the gas station crew members came over and recognized the invitation, was from the same village, and in fact was going to the same exact wedding. My mood changed by the exchange with the girls, I eagerly agreed to join him for the wedding and ended up having one of the best times in recent memory.