His voice reminds me of the narrator from "the Big Lebowski" and he starts telling me what to do. I hop on a bus, that takes me to a marta station, ride the marta train to it's end point, and beging walking around the Atlanta International Airport. Full circle! How the circle complete's its self goes a little something like this...
Wake up bright and whoa what time is it in the morning? Rocky has to get to his job, so I take the chance to catch a ride to some side of a highway somewhere and get back out on the ole dusty trail. I buy us both breakfast sammichs as he fills up his car and we swat about a few last jokes. Then he pulls along side the highway, explains to me the best way to go, and drives up the exit ramp in front of us. I'm left by myself, the wooshing of the morning commute, and many miles to Tampa.
I start walking down the road, listening to some Frank Turner to get my feet back in the mood, and I have a great glow inside me. Making great time, already had some really remarkable moments, and finally doing the thing I've always wanted to in life. A few miles down the road and I end up passing a police officer whose issuing a happy monday morning ticket to some guy traveling to work. I get yelled at and forced over the median to talk with him, the highway splits from interstate to local and I end up crossing over onto the local route.
"What are you doing?"
I look at my very heavy green back pack, the road, my feet, back at the road, and then at mr. friendly.
I'm made to give over my ID, so he can make sure there isn't anything to arrest me over, and I'm told to wait in front of his cruiser with my hands where he can see them. I comply, I don't want any trouble and need to see where all this is going. He comes back, hands me my ID, asks where I'm going, and the instructs me to walk along the local highway. This isn't good...
I walk up the exit ramp and set down my bag for a little while. Oddly enough, I'm listening to Allan Watts, talking about the flow, how all things merge to a point, and starting to wonder where my morning is sending me.
No rides on any of the traffic lights, I keep staring down where I came from, it's a speed trap, I watch him pull over a few more cars. I think there is a cop further down clocking and he's just cleaning up. This becomes clear when another cop car shows up and the two officers start chit chatting along the side of the highway. This is about the time that I realize the highway they are on vears off to the right from the one I was trying to walk down. If I hustle down the highway, put enough distance from the split, I should be back on my route and well away from the bacon. Strap my bag back on and trott towards that wooshing sound I'm growing to love.
Some miles down the road an extremely nervous Pakistani man pulls over to give me a ride. His car is extremely cluttered and there is little room for me or my bag. He insists, I scoot in, and quickly I try to break the ice. We engage in religious debate, he talks about what it really means to be a muslim about how all he hopes to do is bring love into everyones lives, and how he wishes the same. He tells me to prey for him everyday, so he may find true happiness in this world, and he promises to do the same for me. It's always funny to me, how the aspect of Islam is hidden from us as Americans and even funnier still how many Muslims I've been spending time with on my travels. So nice, warm, understanding, and completely hopeful for what comes next. He can't take me far, I don't mind but he starts to tell me about the truck stop he would like to take me to. He keeps insisting I give it at least two hours and I should find a straight shot to Tampa. So I set up at the truck stop and start talking with all the various truckers coming and going. After about an hour of striking out, I start to get really restless, frustrated, and think about hopping back onto the interstate. So far all my success has come from walking down the interstate and meeting up with people already in motion. So I stow my urges and decide to follow the advice of that kind, softly spoken man.
After about an hour and a half goes by I see a rather large MegaBus come into the stop. The sign on it reads, Orlando via Gainsville, and my brain goes to work. I see the bus driver walking towards me and I do my best to conjure up some Jedi mind tricks. Sadly she isn't looking for droids and after my best attempts tells me sorry. I don't mind, it's a lot to ask of someone, especially when you think about the possibility of losing your job. My interaction with her does cause my phone to pick up the wifi signal on the bus. I guess once you ride on one Megabus the wifi recognizes you on every bus. I haven't been able to check my email in a couple of days and decide to seize this opportunity. I have a bunch of emails, the one that stabs my eye sockets immediately is from the reporter who did the interview in Nashville ( click here if you haven't seen it ) and at the end of the email he tells me about a someone who'd like to get me a plane ticket to Tampa. I call the reporter, who gives me Waynes number, and I call him up.
Through the pay phone comes a sincere southern voice, comforting, and a hearty laugh. I tell him about my travels, what I've been doing, and what I'm trying to do this year. He says he'd like to give me a plane ticket to Tampa and then asks where I'm heading to after. I explain to him it's tentative, I'm going for my fathers birthday celebration and then anytime after that I was planning on getting back to hitching towards New Orleans. He tells me that he'd like to get my return flight from Tampa to New Orleans as well. I debate with him about this, explain how it's a little unsettling for me, my pride and my journey to say yes to these things. After a little talking I decide that I need time to think about it and will let him know my thoughts after I make the treck to the Atlanta Airport. The words from my earlier ride making a lot of sense, the bizarre chance of the past 5 days filling my face with a sly smile, I find myself to the ATL airport with no problems.
After locating a ticket agent, getting the correct info to make this happen, I call wayne back from an airport pay phone. We started to work out arrangements and I reinforce how I don't feel extremely comfortable with this much generosity from a stranger. He quotes the article where I said "be grateful" and how he'd just like to help out. I tell him that I'm not going to say no to his help but let him know I'll be fine either way. I'm told to sit tight while he sets up the reservation, I call him back half hour later, and he lets me know the details. I spend the evening in the USO office, calling some loved ones, setting up a pick up from the airport, and awe struck that someone would do something so selfless for another. I've always prided myself on helping people, can't say I've ever been able to extend my kindess forward in such a large way, but hope to one day pay this forward. Oddly enough, those were his last words to me, "Thomas, don't you worry about anything now, you just make sure to Pay it forward", and I plan on it. Firstly by letting the world know just what sort of man Andrew Wayne Causey is.
He's a marine veteran, served his country from 1962-66, and is extremely proud to be an american. Irish and indian, 68 years young, with a full raspy chuckle that follows many of my questions, and is very warming to my ears. I start to ask him the big three...
1) What's your favorite part about being a human being?
He gives out one of those chuckles and says "being alive". Normally I try to press the issues when people give that as an answer. However, wayne elaborates to inform me that he's a cancer survivor and how everyday he gets feels like a blessing.
2)What's the most important thing a person can do with their life?
A short stint of silence and then...
"Best you can, treat everybody well and be true to your truths"
3)Normally I ask people something light hearted for the 3rd question but seeing how it's veterans day, I'm on the phone with a veteran, and I myself am one.
"Wayne, what's your favorite part about being an American?
To which he sharply replys with little hesitation.
"Rights & Freedoms"
We chat on the phone a little more but all to soon it's time for me to make my towards the terminal I'll be flying out of . He leaves me with an open invitation to come visit him and his wife at anytime. I'm overly touched, light head from selfless action this stranger has bestowed upon me, and feeling as if everything is definitely meant to be. Fingers twiddle as the rubber necking normies blue by me and I revisit the various areas of the ATL airport. Funny to me, I once shot a dance adventure in this very airport, and it's like you blink your eyes a few times in life and end up right back at the same place. Not much has changed and yet everything is so different.
I come onto the flight, I see my seat is taken by a family, father, mother, and little girl. So I try to not make waves and select a seat that doesn't seem to be filled, hopefully won't be filled and really come to grips with the fact that I'm on an airplane after all that's just happened the past few days. It doesn't take long, another passenger comes up and says I'm in his seat. So I get up, the flight attendant then comes to help me with my seat, I explain about the family, and she brings me over there. This is when the husband says...
"Oh! I was suppose to be in 1st class but was hoping whoever's seat this was wouldn't mind switching."
o.O Yes sir! The hits keep coming!
Next thing I know I'm sipping a Jack daniels on the rocks, reading, listening to some great chunes, and enjoying leg room you couldn't get with a box cutter on a plane (To soon?). Watching atlanta fade I'm elated, thinking of how much fun it's going to be, seeing my little sister, getting there early so I'll have time to see some friends, and of course bringing so much joy to my fathers 50th bday celebration. He's always been a big inspiration to me and a large reason why I've so strongly pushed through all the adversity in my life over the years. It isn't until we are getting close to Tampa that I start to get a weird sinking in my stomach, a silly thought starts to creep in my head and I finally ask the question...
Why am I getting to my first pit stop on this adventure so quickly?