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2017 Commentator Brunch Sampler: McCallum On The Last Pillow

In the ‘80s, after footloose travel and a stint living in Greece, I decided to get a career and enrolled in a masters program in library science. In my final semester I took a class that introduced us to the latest trend in libraries - computers! When the guy sitting next to me said hello, I felt I’d seen him before. “Do I know you?” I asked.

“Not sure,” he replied, “but it feels like we’ve already met.” We recited our lists of likely path crossings and came up blank. Throughout the semester we floated possible scenarios. None fit.

On the last night we had a social gathering. “I finally figured out how I know you,” he said.
He took a breath and looked me in the eye. “Two years ago, you took a trip to Greece. To an island you’d once lived on.”

“Yes!” I said. “How did you know?”

“You were traveling alone and flew out of JFK airport in New York. It was a charter flight and you had to wait in a long line in a non-air conditioned terminal, super hot. In the line, you met a young medical student and talked to him for hours.”

“Yes,” I said.

Then, like a detective unveiling details of a cold case he’d successfully cracked, he continued.

“The old man in front of you had a heart attack and keeled over. The medical student gave him CPR. Then medics took the man away and you moved up in line - still talking to the CPR guy.”

He was dead right.

“On the plane you sat with a different guy and chatted with him. About how you’d lived in Greece and learned to speak Greek, but worried how you might not remember any of it. You told him about interesting places to go.”

My neck felt tingly. “Yes!” I shouted. “But how do you know all this?”

Like a gumshoe on a ‘50s cop show, he kept reeling off facts, savoring his special moment.

“After takeoff the stewardess handed out pillows for the flight,” he continued. “You got the last one.”

“This is crazy!” I shouted. “Who are you?”

“I’m the guy who stood behind you in line for two hours. Then I sat behind you for the entire flight. I heard all your stories. You never stopped talking.” He grinned. “And you know what else? I really could have used that pillow.”

Hear all the commentaries presented at this event here.

Mary McCallum is a freelance writer and former prison librarian who now works with Vermont elders.
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