Dear Readers – Part Deux,
I started one long account before, but decided that most of what I was saying was just rambling, so now, I start again.
We arrived very late at our hotel in Budapest and we were able to get about four hours of sleep before rising, packing, and getting a bite of breakfast before checking out and boarding a bus for a tour of the city. I have posted pictures of what we saw on my Flickr page (I am currently without internet connection so I cannot post the link), but I can condense the day to “trying to stay awake, trying to stay out of the sun, trying to drink enough water.”
After about two hours of sightseeing, the guide left the bus and we turned south and headed for the bride’s hometown of Szeged. It was a trip of about two hours driving time broken up with a lunch at a traditional Magyar restaurant. My ability to stay awake and focused completely abandoned me after lunch as the heat and the motion of the motor coach combined with the sedative effects of food to put me into a half-conscious state.
Upon arrival in Szeged, we dropped one-half of the bus passengers at one hotel and then moved across the river Tizsa to the second hotel housing a number of wedding guests. As it turned out, myself and my son were the only ones staying at yet a third hotel and while we stood around waiting for our hostess to become free to guide us to that establishment, I saw the now empty bus depart for its return trip to Budapest.
As I stood there in a haze of heat and exhaustion, I remembered that I needed to get something out of the pocket of my travel vest (you know, one of those dreadfully tacky vests with the million pockets in them) and started to mentally go through my luggage pile to remember where I had put it.
I knew I was tired, but I did not think that I was totally out of it until then because no matter how hard I thought, I could not remember which piece of luggage before me held that vest. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t place my finger on it until I remembered that I had put the vest in my backpack along with my laptop and passports and placed it on the overhead storage shelf on the bus that was no longer there.
With a yelp, I ran outside searching in vain up and down the street for any sign of the bus. The bride followed me outside and after hearing a truncated version of the tale of woe, she quickly searched her bag for a cell phone number of the driver. Finding none, she then broke into a run, bag in hand, saying to the shambling figure beside her that “the bus is big and cannot quickly negotiate the narrow streets, we must catch it.”
Now, I did say it was hot, didn’t I? I was about 100 degrees F at that point and I found myself running flat out through these beautiful pedestrian plaza’s generating quizzical stares from the people moving slowly along in a sensible fashion as these two clearly crazy folk ran through their midst.
We finally cleared the pedestrian plaza and saw the bus about one block distant, pulling away from an intersection. We picked up the pace, but we saw with frustration that the bus was now in the clear and growing ever more distant. I slowed, then stopped, bent double with exhaustion, frustration, and heat stroke. I stood slowly upright, thinking maybe there was a taxi available when I turned and looked at the bride who was wading into the traffic flow waving her arms.
She forced the next vehicle to a stop – a farm truck, and began a hurried, one-way conversation in Magyar through the half open window. The next thing I knew, the door opened, the female passenger scooted over, the bride jumped in and yelled through the window as the truck pulled away in a cloud of exhaust, “I’ll be back.” I stood there, dumbstruck as the truck disappeared in the same direction as the bus had a minute before.
I slowly made my way back to the hotel, imagining all sorts of horrors associated with the loss of the laptop, the passports, and other assorted nightmares. By the time I got back to the hotel lobby, I was drenched with sweat and somewhat delirious. I was greeted by my son who turned away disdainfully saying, “I don’t know you.” Embarrassment is evidently greater to a teenager than to a brain-dead adult. Unable to face this scorn, I went back outside to ponder the implications of this by myself.
It was there, about fifteen minutes later, that I saw the bride come sauntering up the street with my backpack over her shoulder, and a shimmer of sweat evident on her neck. To say that I felt a huge weight disappear from my shoulders would be a severe understatement. I felt unimaginable gratitude towards not only her, but to the unknown couple who stopped and so graciously undertook a rescue mission for an unknown foreigner. The money that I had pulled out to offer as thanks would now not be deliverable.
I must say that the generousity displayed here in this country towards myself and my family has been very humbling. I have thought many times in the past few days whether my home countrymen (and women) would have acted the same. I know only that a potential disaster was prevented by the graciousness of people I never met, and will never be able to thank in person.
More in the next installment.