Facing a Tough Audience.

I’m going over to Honolulu tomorrow morning because I’ve been invited to speak to a group of a dozen men who meet for lunch once a month to hear guest speakers on a variety of topics. As near as I can tell, every one of these guys carries heavyweight credentials. 

There are two doctors—I mean medical doctors—one a gerontologist, the other a surgeon. There are at least two PhD-type doctors, too.  Another guy has an international reputation as a global warming expert; another is a journalist originally from Asia who is a member of the Cricket Hall of Fame. Another is a former dean of a university Business School.

And they and going to have lunch and listen to me talk about train travel! Are you kidding?

It’s certainly an intimidating group and the closer I came to the actually day of the lunch, the more I began to worry that I would be unable to hold the interest of this elite bunch. So a started going through a stack of notebooks—I take one on every train trip I take—looking for something . . . any events, large or small, that  may have occurred during one of my train travels.

And then . . . one-by-one . . . little tid-bits began jumping out from the pages of those notebooks—little mini-events that had occurred as I was traveling somewhere on a train. Oh, sure . . . maybe each one, taken by itself, isn’t very interesting or funny or sad or ironic or scary. 

But together . . . well, I think they become the reason why I enjoy travel so much, most especially travel by train. Of course it remains to be seen if the lunch group tomorrow reacts in the same way.

Here’s a sample of the kind of incident that happened to me on a train trip . . . the kind of thing that seems to occur all the time.

I was having lunch in the dining car on the Empire Builder. We were somewhere in the mountains running along the southern border of Glacier National Park. I had just learned that the handsome man in his sixties seated across from me with his wife was a senior captain with American Airlines.

“Wow,” I said . . . and then, jokingly, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Well,” he said, “Ann and I just thought it was time we saw this magnificent country from an altitude of six feet.”