“Guess what! Guess what!” Trina Hanson shouted to her husband Tom as she rushed into their house in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, after another long workday.
“You won the lottery?” Tom guessed.
“You know I don’t buy lottery tickets! Really, guess!”
Trina shrugged off her backpack and pulled her sweater over her head.
“Promotion?” Tom tried.
Trina had been working extra hours, proving herself at an ag chemical company in the Research Triangle.
“Better,” Trina said.
“No,” Trina said. “I’m going to Europe! For a team meeting!”
“I know, I know, you get to do that all the time,” Trina said. Tom worked for a rival company as a division leader. He’d been to his corporation’s head office three times in the past year, once even taking Trina along for a quick vacation.
“This will be my first overseas work trip. They’re really starting to trust me.”
“That’s great,” Tom said. “Next time it will be a promotion and a trip.
Trina kept grinning.
“You should see my itinerary. I’m flying through New York. Then Frankfurt!” While she kept talking, Tom led her to the kitchen where he had dinner waiting.
“And I’m going a day early. I’ll have a chance to see the museum. It’s near my hotel. And I can go to that place where Connie bought her boots when she came home from that conference last month. I’ve been dying to go to that store.”
“You’re sure this trip is about work?” Tom kidded.
Trina rolled her eyes. “You know how many late nights I’ve worked on this paper. Hey, this chicken looks delicious.”
Trina ate a few bites, then spoke up again. “I know you’ve been on a hundred work trips and this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But when you grow up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, you don’t expect to turn into the kind of person who flies through New York to Europe on business.”
Just 10 days later, Trina was on her own in front of the gate at JFK airport, carry-on bag in one hand, passport and cell phone displaying her e-ticket in the other. She jumped in surprise when a hand tapped her shoulder. She turned, one arm protecting the pouch in her carry-on where she kept her wallet.
“I thought that was you,” the man said.
Trina looked behind her, open-mouthed. It was Brian Miller, the farmer who lived just a few miles north of the Hanson’s farm in Saskatchewan. His wife Lori was with him. And next to them she recognized Gavin Thompson, who’d bought seed from the Hansons ever since Trina could remember. There was Gavin’s wife Jill, and two other farm couples her parents’ age she’d grown up knowing.
“What are you all doing here?” she asked.
“We’re on our way to Germany,” Lori answered. “The travel agent in Weyburn got us a last-minute deal on a tour. We tried to get your parents to come, but they’re still in Arizona.”
“Behave yourself wherever you are,” Brian advised. “You never know who you’ll run into.”
“Your mom told us about your wedding in Hawaii last year,” Jill said. “The photos were beautiful.”
Trina had a chance to catch up with the four couples, hearing about their tour and telling them about her job. She was happy to see them, but she had to admit to herself that she felt a little deflated. It was hard to hold a vision of yourself as a high-flying international businessperson when you’ve just seen someone who remembered how you drove the grain truck into the combine when you were 15.
Still, she was so excited about the rest of her trip she found it hard to sleep on the flight. She flipped through the reports she’d brought along and watched the in-flight movies until the plane finally landed in Frankfurt.
In the terminal, the farmers had left the plane ahead of Trina, and were gathered in front of the information screen. She joined them to look up at the display.
Brian spied an ATM nearby. “I’m going to grab some cash before we head to the next gate. We’re going to want a snack before we get on another plane.”
“Good idea,” Trina said, following Brian to the ATM. Tom had given her a stray 10-euro note left over from his last trip to Switzerland, but that was all the European cash she had.
Brian politely allowed her to go first. She put her debit card into the ATM and chose the button to select “English” from the list of language options. Then a message showed up on the screen in a large intimidating font. Before she finished reading it the ATM swallowed her card and would not give it back. She yelped.
Brian peered over her shoulder to view the screen. “That’s not good,” he said. “I hope you brought a backup card.”
Trina had her work credit card. But she’d been given a very stern warning from her manager, who’d told her not to use the corporate card for anything other than her hotel room, transportation and meals. Her eyes widened as she realized she didn’t have another card for personal spending. There would be no museum for her; she’d have to forget about any good leather boots.
What kind of idiot flies overseas without an extra credit card, she thought. Trina’s jet lag caught up with her disappointment and tears welled up in her eyes.
“Cut that out,” Brian said, daring to try his own card into the same ATM and then pressing buttons rapidly. “Don’t worry. Mine works.” While the machine spat out a thick wad of euros, Brian called over to the rest of his group and explained her situation. “I’d look after this myself, but there’s a daily limit on my card. It won’t be enough for a girl who wants to go shopping in Europe.”
Trina stood, open-mouthed. “You guys can’t… ” she started.
“Of course we can,” Gavin said. “I know what your dad would do if he saw my kid in the airport with no cash.”
“I’ll pay you back,” Trina promised. “As soon as I get home! I can e-transfer.”
Brian interrupted. “Of course you will. You’re a Hanson. I’m not worried about it. And we all know where your family lives. Calm down, get yourself a drink and find the gate for your next flight.”
While Brian had been talking, the other couples in the group had conferred around the ATM, cracking jokes while they inserted their own cards and took out cash. Soon Trina had a think bundle of euros, more than enough for new boots and a trip to the museum. Maybe even the museum gift shop.
She was still wiping tears from her eyes after she’d stuffed the cash into her wallet, gathered an email address for each couple and hugged the women goodbye, repeatedly promising to pay everyone back. Soon she was waiting at her next gate, holding a cold lemonade.
Trina’s cell phone buzzed inside her carry-on bag with a text from Tom. “Just checking in. International travel as glamorous as you hoped?”