Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I often find the amount of ignorance, hate, and ugliness toward fellow human beings thats shared on these platforms unsettling. However, social media is also a great venue for staying connected to family and friends strewn across the world as well as for story-telling. As someone who enjoys writing and sharing my experiences, it’s a delicate balance between communicating enough to paint a picture and not revealing so much that my private life becomes the fodder of armchair quarterbacks and trolls. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell this story since last week, so here goes. . .
I’m Facebook friends with quite a few real-life friends from my time in the military. I really enjoy the pics and commentary of big and small events in their lives. It’s easy to forget that they don’t just live in the internet world and that they live in an actual geographic location. So when it finally dawned on me that one of my shipmates from my very first tour in the Navy lives only about an hour from me, I contacted her for a meet-up. So that’s how a day of misadventure started!
Tina and I met up at Angelina European Café in Burlington, NC for brunch on Thursday morning. It had been almost 30 years since we’ve seen each other, so we did as much talking as we did eating! We’ve both come a long way since wearing coveralls and turning wrenches on P-3 aircraft in Hawaii and on deployments in the early 1990s.
After polishing off a scrumptious breakfast, we decided to commemorate Black History Month by touring a couple of historic sites in the area. First stop was the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Gibsonville. Though born in Henderson, NC, the site’s namesake went to school in New England, topping off her education at a teaching college in Salem. In 1901, an 18-year old Charlotte returned to NC from Massachusetts and opened a school for rural black children in Sedalia. Over the 50 years of her leadership, the school became one of the most renowned schools for African American youth in the nation. One of the cool tidbits we learned while touring the campus was that Nat King Cole visited the school often since he was married to her niece!
Next stop was the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro. The museum is in the original Woolworth building where the 1960 Greensboro civil rights protest, in the form of a sit-in, occurred, igniting sit-ins across the nation. Though other acts of defiance against segregation in the form of sit-ins had occurred prior to 1960, it was the well-orchestrated, non-violent act of four young college students simply trying to order a cup of coffee at a segregated lunch counter that helped ignite the civil rights movement of the 60s. From the incredibly educational film, to the unflinching displays, to the impeccably preserved original lunch counter, the whole experience is eye-opening and should be a part of any visit to the area.
While browsing in the gift shop, we decided to head down the street for cheese cake and coffee after I purchased a book I had my eye on. I had forgotten my wallet in the car, so I left Tina in the giftshop and went out to retrieve it. As I crossed the street to return to the building, I experienced a neurological event and found myself on the ground in front of the doors to the museum. The event was short-lived, though I stayed put while a passerby called 911. Tina saw a commotion going on outside and opened the door to the museum thinking that a homeless person was sitting near the door only to discover I was the reason for the small crowd gathering! By the time EMS arrived, I had recovered and was doing well, so I chose to have Tina drive me to the VA Hospital instead of riding in the ambulance. As we got into her car to leave, she noticed a note on her windshield. Great, not only has our day been hijacked, now it’s gonna cost her a parking ticket! While I was wondering to myself how I was gonna pay the parking ticket for her, I saw her read the paper, then look down at her bumper. It turns out that while she was helping me, someone had hit-and-run her car! Fortunately, a good Samaritan saw the whole thing and left the note with their phone number and the license plate number of the motorist.
At the start of the day, we were both so excited at the prospect of sharing a selfie of us together for all our old shipmates to see. After the initial scare of the medical event dissipated, it became a running joke that maybe we should wait another 30 years before seeing each other again if this is what happens when we get together! The medical mishap and subsequent hit-and-run was such an integral part of our day together and re-bonding after all these years that I just couldn’t leave it out of the story. I received excellent care at the VA Hospital in Durham and am doing well. The event reinforced my commitment “to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”
Let the retiree shenanigans continue!