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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Machcinski

How a conversation with a stranger changed the outlook of my day

“Hey man! Do you know where the trail is?”

Cutting through the city with Audioslave blasting through my headphones, I almost missed the older black man with the white bandana call out to me. I pulled over and asked him what he said.

The man, whose name I later found out was Clarence, rode the York County Rail Trail down from John Rudy Park in Manchester Township into the city. It was his first ride on the trail and got lost trying to find the section of the trail that leads south out of York.

I finished up my own ride from John Rudy and was headed home, so I told him to follow me and I’d link him up to the next section.

The conversation started with the trail itself – the little ledge to avoid coming out of the parking lot and the cool things to see just beyond the city. As we talked, I learned more about him.

Clarence lives near Baltimore and started riding his bike a month ago after he recovered from a torn meniscus and couldn’t run.

He branched out to other trails farther from his house. He started with the BWI bike trail but got lost and ended up adding another six miles to his ride (Side note: I noticed a trend here).

Clarence then noticed my wedding ring and asked me if my wife also biked. Sarah does, I told him, but being eight-and-a-half months pregnant isn’t exactly the best time to ride.

“Oh my God,” he shouted, “Congratulations!”

Clarence told me about his six children, how he liked the girls best because even when they’re mad at you, “they still love you the best.”

At Grantley Road, I showed him the way south as I headed home. We exchanged a fist-bump and went separate ways, but not before he shouted one last time, “Thanks again for the help and congratulations on the kid!”

Earlier that day, I retweeted a video of angry protesters getting aggressive with a camera man who was filming their protest in New York. They called him a hack and blamed him for “the media blowing this whole virus thing out of proportion.”

I was frustrated. I left journalism for many reasons, but one of them became the growing anger and resentment towards the media. I hated worrying about catching flak while walking around York with wife. And don’t say it doesn’t happen, I’ve gotten the phone calls that I’d never publish here telling me to do unimaginable things. It happens.

But even though I left the house frustrated, I returned with a renewed faith in the community.

Maybe it’s because quarantine destroyed the little conversations that we’d have with people at the liquor store. Maybe it’s just what I needed to hear and see for the day, but there’s so much good in this world. I’m just glad to find it on a random Friday.

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