Thursday afternoon, while working on my laptop at a local Starbucks, I ended up having a conversation with a couple nearby. It turned out they were from Paris, in the U.S. on vacation. Nothing too odd about that, but this particular Starbucks was tucked into a stretch of U.S. Route 46 chockablock with hubcap shops, fast food restaurants, hourly-rate motels, used car lots, a couple of BYO strip clubs, and a recently-demolished massage parlor. I go to that Starbucks sometimes because it gets a lot of late afternoon sunlight, but it's not somewhere I'd think of taking friends from out of town. Not exactly a tourist hotspot.
The couple explained that they had taken a year off to travel around the U.S., and had bought a used minivan (for $3k) at a used car lot near that Starbucks last spring. Now they were back after circling round the country and taking a detour into Mexico. They were planning to drive up to Canada for a couple of weeks to renew their tourist visas, but first they wanted to take their new American friend -- the guy who sold them the minivan -- out for a nice French dinner.
They asked if I knew any good French restaurants and I gave them a few ideas, and then let them borrow my laptop to book a hotel for the night. The husband gave me his business card: back in Paris he's a rédacteur en chef of a magazine. His wife was an editor too. The night before, I had been arguing with Trumwill on his blog that the class distinctions he and one of his guest bloggers frequently make are mostly pointless, partly because the demarcations they try to draw are so porous. And here, as if to underline my point, were two Parisian journalists befriending an American used car dealer.
Recently, on the 4HWW forums, someone mentioned CouchSurfer.org, a site built to connect couch surfers with hosts willing to let them sleep on their couches. In one of the testimonials on that site, a host said that hosting a foreign couch surfer was like "traveling without moving". Meeting that French couple in the Little Ferry Starbucks reminded me of that line, which in turn reminded me of where I'd first heard it: in Dune. Embedding is disabled for this one, but click the link and see 1:47-1:57 of the clip.
Dune: Folding Space