Marcia explains how the simple act of being friendly and saying hi dramatically changed her world and formed life long relationships in the summer of 1968.
Marcia: My world dramatically changed by being friendly and saying hi to several people one summer. It was the summer of 1968. It was after my sophomore year at University of Wisconsin Madison, and I was looking forward to an exchange program with Warwick University in England. But in order to help pay for everything I had a job working in K Sandwich Shop which was at 18th Street in downtown DC. And the location of that sandwich shop was really critical to what happened next.
There was a stretch of time where I guess was working a late shift, so it was relatively empty, but I noticed in another section there was this fellow who kept coming in who looked to be about my age. What looked different about him was that every time he came in he was wearing a shirt that was pastel colored, small flowers, and he had kind of longish hair. The more I looked at him, I thought, “that looks like Carnaby Street, he’s got to be British.” So, I just decided to go over one day and chat him up, which I did. It turned out, indeed, he did just graduate from the London School of Economics and he was on his way to what he called Barkley—which was Berkley for a law degree. But he was staying with very close friend of his family who lived in London, and I immediately thought, “Oh my god, this poor guy he’s just with grown ups all the time, maybe he would really like to find out what its like not to be a grown up.” So, I asked him if he wanted to come over to my house for dinner the next night. Now I have to put that in a little context, my father had a gift store and there were lots of traveling salesmen, and when I was growing up it was not unusual at all to sit at the dinner table and to find a stranger there.
So, I picked him up where he was staying, and we just a had a really fun dinner together. I remember just sitting in our living room on the floor with our backs supported by this sofa, and I had my little important notebook with me, and he gave me all sorts of information about England, about London in particular. And then he gave me the name and the phone number of a very good friend of his in London in case I wanted to get in touch with him. And also, he gave me the name of his parents and their phone number. So that was really lovely, and then he went on his way, and I continued to work. I went to Paris for that month, and the night before I was to leave for Paris, I got one of those really wretched 24-hour stomach bugs. I felt really terrible, but I had to leave the next day. So—I just had to do that so I did it. I ended up in the center of London at bustling Victoria Station and really wasn’t feeling that great and wasn’t sure what I was going to do until I decided I guess I should really call his friend.
So, I did, I figure out how to use a phone and called his friend. I introduced myself and to my utter amazement he went, “Oh Marcia! I have been expecting to hear from you.” I went, “Oh my gosh”—that mean Alex had to have gotten in touch with his friend. So, he said, “Look, I actually can’t give you a place to stay but come here and we’ll figure out what to do.” So, he gave me the directions, I followed them, I got to his place, and he said, “I’ve been thinking about this, and I think you have to call his parents.” And I’m like, what? That was so bizarre to me, I was just—really? So, I picked up the phone and I called them, and the same thing happened. I introduced myself and they went, “Oh Marcia! We’ve been expecting to hear from you. Yes, come over. Nick is having a dinner party but I’m sure he would just be thrilled to have you join.”
They were so nice and interesting, and everyone was just terrific. And then, I told them what my plans were. I had a friend from Wisconsin who was in Norwich. We had talked about in the Spring to go to England, and he said, “Why don’t you come out and spend some time there?” Okay. I stayed there for three days or so, enjoyed myself, and then I was ready for the next chapter which was going to be going to Coventry to work where I was going to be for that semester.
I started putting my thumb out, getting ready to hitch; and I tried and I tried and I tried. It went on for quite awhile and I was having absolutely no success. What I didn’t know was that it was impossible to hitch in that direction, what I really needed to do was go back to the hub. I needed to go to back London and then I needed to go north. When I did figure out and I was back in London, it was already getting kind of late, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get to Coventry in time before it got dark. I also remembered how wonderful that family was, and I thought, “I just wonder if I could just stay there one more night” so I called and they went, “Oh yes! Come, we’re having a dinner party tonight, but we would love for you to join.” So that was that.
I decided—It was just a semester exchange program, but I just didn’t think it was enough time. I really wanted to be immersed in another culture, but the complication was where I would live. I did find a place in a little village, Kenilworth, and overtime that actually didn’t work out. In the end, because I had classes only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I could do research in London. I could go to the British Museum every day and I could live with the Finers. Which is what I did. Maurice would drive me to Euston Station on Tuesday mornings, I would take the train up, I would go to my classes, I would spend one night in Kenilworth, and then I would hitch back. And I did for months and months and months, and I just became an integral part of the family.