It was hard to tell Frank from Myrna by looking at them. Both wore short cropped gray hair, knee length khaki shorts, plaid shirts. That thing where two close people grow to look alike as they age.
Zeus met Myrna at the Mt. Shasta RV park, slot number 14, where he spotted her hooking up the sewer drain pipe. New to the hygiene protocols of keeping a clean Airstream, he asked her to show him the ropes. Myrna gladly obliged and began telling her life story. Myrna’s friend and traveling partner, Frank, joined in the conversation.
Zeus is the world’s friend (while I am an introvert) so he shakes hands with everyone first and calls me over to meet them after the warm up conversation. When I arrive the inquisition begins. I can’t help asking questions (as witnessed by my chosen career path.) And, am I glad I began asking Myrna questions!
She began her life as an independent woman in the Peace Corps, in charge of hires in Latin America, which took her all over South America. She then had a stint as project leader at the White House (though I can’t remember the project right now.) After this Myrna worked twenty-eight years with the World Bank.
Beyond this impressive resume, her greatest dream began at the age of nine, when she first saw images of penguins in a science class. She vowed to herself to go see the penguins once she was able.
After the World Bank, she became mostly retired. Now was HER time – time to meet the penguins! So she put in an application for work in Antarctica and her request was heard. She was to become their new dishwasher. She was thrilled.
That was fourteen years ago and every year she spends her time house-sitting in beautiful homes, including a regular gig here in Northern California, driving her RV across the country to wherever she wishes to go, picking up her friend Frank along the way for special trips. From October to March, however, she lives in Antarctica where she has been elevated to bus driver to the tourists.
She says “I am 79-years old and I’m not done yet. See this RV? I bought it on a whim the other day. It’s my fourth. The license plate is WHIM (followed by a few numbers). I do what I want and I love it!”
I couldn’t help but ask, “After a lifetime of work, what was your favorite part?”
Myrna said, “Oh, that would be the Peace Corps! I loved it! I got to hire people I thought would fit in to make the best volunteer teams possible. It was so satisfying to be part of a volunteer effort that made a difference.”
“And the World Bank?” I asked. She pinched her face up and stuck her tongue out at the memory or working among all of the male Ivy League Ph.D.s. She thought they were prigs, stuffed shirts. To Myrna all the money in the world couldn’t come close to being out in the world, in the field, with people of all kinds who were choosing to make a difference.
As serendipity had it, we found out out that Frank lives only a couple of miles from our home in the Sierra Foothills. Funny how you sometimes have to travel the world to meet the people right next door.
Our conversation drew to a close naturally, and with that we said goodbye and Myrna and Frank rolled on to Crater Lake. “I’ve been staying here in California for years and I have NEVER seen Crater Lake! Can you BELIEVE THAT??!”
Come to think of it, neither have I.