Discover more from Scranton Time - bits and pieces from Tom Flannery
"What we saw yesterday was a touch of class..."
My wife and I spent the day yesterday in charming Hawley, PA. We were riding "railbikes" up and down the historic Gravity Railroad out there as part of a local tour. It's just one of the many really cool things to do around here that people who actually live here rarely do. We were chatting with one of the tour guides, a young kid born and raised in the area. He admitted that before he got the guide job, he had never taken the tour and didn't know much about it. "I don't know why", he offered. "We live here so I guess we take everything we have for granted."
There's always something gnawing at us. We always think that the really cool stuff is happening someplace else.
Our tour included folks from New York and Virginia and Arizona, so it would seem they feel the same way we do. There was even a large group from Japan. Not counting our guides, we may have been the only locals. Living in a place where other people choose to vacation can mess with your equilibrium.
But let me tell you. I was NEPA proud yesterday. A little story....
Two of the guests on the tour were disabled. One woman was in a wheelchair, and an elderly gentleman had such bad legs that he could barely walk, even with a cane. I was skeptical that either one of them could be accommodated.
The guides came together and improvised. On the spot. They worked on various ways to get both safely into their seats, moving the bikes to them. If one way didn't work, they tried another. They never got frustrated. They never got rattled. Their body language screamed "failure is not an option."
(For this type of empathy and dedication, I was to discover later they were paid $12 an hour)
Once they did get them seated and secured, they physically lifted the bikes with the guests in them, and gently laid them onto the tracks. They folded up the woman's wheelchair and placed it into the back of the truck at the head of the convoy, in case it was needed. There was no self-congratulatory air to any of this as it was being carried out. If I had pointed out that what they were doing was in any way special, they probably would have looked at me weird.
I overheard the woman in charge saying "we're not going anywhere until we take care of both of them" and all I could do was sit back and smile. There's reasons people travel thousands of miles to visit us, and I like to think that this is one of them.
We went 3 miles out and 3 miles back, hugging the thirsty Lackawanna river the entire way. A few eagles were spotted over our heads (hence the name of the tour, "Soarin' Eagle Rail Tours"), nurtured by what the brochure calls "clean water and safe habitat". Coal used to be king here, and the men from towns like Hawley and Honesdale and Carbondale and Scranton enabled the industrial revolution with their sweat and their dust-ravaged lungs. They never considered what they were doing to be special either. They died too young and too often and are easy to forget, which is why towns like Hawley that embrace their history deserve to be recognized. Without these men, there's no bright lights in the big cities. There would have been no lights at all.
What we saw yesterday was a touch of class that these men might have raised a growler to.
We closed out our visit with lunch at the Lake Wally Cafe, a charming family-owned place that treats first-timers like they are regulars. Great food and service and cannoli to go, and the first bill I've gotten in ages that didn't make my eyes bulge. It's the kind of place that starts out as a local secret but doesn't stay secret for long. When we return to Hawley, we shall return to the Lake Wally Cafe.
When I stand on my back porch up on my little hill, my eyes instinctively gaze at the mountains and beyond. The greenery or the fall's bursting colors or a storm rolling in. What yesterday reminded me to do was to look at my own backyard. Where my children grew up and my dogs frolicked and our little box of history is still being made. When the sun shines its light in your own yard, it can feel like the most important place on earth. Try it sometime.
Do not neglect your own patch of ground.
I overheard the man they assisted talking to one of the guides at the halfway point of the ride. “Thank you”, he said. He seemed close to tears. And then again…..”really….thank you.”
All I could think about was how many times he had NOT been treated this way.
“Sir, thank YOU” she replied.
I don’t think he’s going to forget Hawley. And neither am I.
In a bit…
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