Encounters in Avignon
In half a day in Avignon, I (to my surprise) encountered five locals more than once.
The first was predictable. He was fifty-ish, unshaven, and apparently homeless. Sitting alongside the pedestrian walkway between a riverside parking lot and the city-center, a begging-bowl in front of him, he was strategically placed to encounter tourists, workers and shoppers.
But this beggar did not beg. There was no aggressive panhandling. He simply greeted passers-by with a pleasant, "Bonjour!" I made two round-trips past his station, and by the third exchange of greetings, it felt like he was an old acquaintance. If my French were at all passable, I would have stopped to chat. I still regret not giving him any money.
The second encounter was with a pharmacist. Jan was sick with some sort of flu. A doctor came on board to examine her. She was given a prescription, and directions to a nearby pharmacy where the staff spoke English. Sort of. "Parlez-vous anglais?" I asked the pharmacist. "Un peu" ("a little") was her response. It was enough. She filled the prescriptions, and gave clear instructions. Later, Jan felt well enough to join the walking tour of the city. Just before reaching the medieval city wall, a woman hurried past in the other direction. "That's your pharmacist!" I said to Jan, who got only a view of the woman's retreating back.
The third encounter was most surprising. On my first foray into town, I met three teenage girls, maybe 15 years old, walking side by side in the other direction. The one closest to me, a petite brunette in a turquoise sweater, spoke in very animated, rapid-fire French, while her two companions laughed in response. An hour-and-a-half later, as I made my way to the pharmacy, I encountered the same three girls. Once again, the girl in the turquoise sweater was regaling her companions with a commentary that appeared to give great pleasure.
Three chance encounters in a foreign city: The friendly beggar who did not beg. The competent, helpful pharmacist. Three young girls, completely indifferent to my presence, who nonetheless delighted me with their very French joie de vivre. In half a day in Avignon, I happened to encounter five strangers more than once. Each left a lasting, and positive, impression.
Whose life will you touch today?