I stood waiting in the cold darkness on the Amtrak platform in Brunswick recently with my husband, Paul. A young man arrived by bicycle. After locking it up, he joined us on the platform and asked how long the train had been there.

About a minute, but that’s not the point of this story. Before I boarded, Paul and I learned that this Bowdoin student had grown up in Shanghai, hated his major and was headed to Boston to get a visa.

This is what I love about travel, even if I was just on a day trip to Boston. The interactions. The observations. Those moments when you know a memory has been made.

I still remember, for example, a conversation I had with the owner of a bed and breakfast in Edinburgh, Scotland. This would have been in the early 1980s. I had stayed there three days and was checking out.

“Where are you headed?” he asked.

“Oh, back to London.”

He shook his head. “You’re leaving civilization!”

I had to laugh. He had a point.

Back on the Downeaster, I took a seat in the same car as the young man from Shanghai and pulled up my ticket on my phone. But there were so few passengers on the 4:30 a.m. train the day after Christmas that the conductor was ready for me. “Soares?” I nodded, and savored the personal touch. I knew it would not be the same coming back that night.

The car filled up as we traveled south. But the young man caught my eye as I left the train in Boston.

“I hope you have a nice day with your friend,” he said.

“I hope you have a good day, too.”

I met my friend at a French bistro near the Public Garden. It’s located in a building that was once a Masonic lodge. I don’t know if the illuminated sign that said “Library” over an interior door came with the building, but it was vintage. It cast a golden glow; if it had said “Coat Room,” it would have been right at home in a 1930s-era nightclub.

Since I’m a librarian, I needed to have a picture of this sign. Unfortunately, when I tried to take it to show how it was situated over the door, all I got was a yellow streak.

The manager and pastry chef (as I would later learn) were talking nearby. My determination to get a good shot meant I got up and sat back down several times and snapped from several angles. Finally I gave up and just took a close-up of the sign, which worked.

I guess my intense interest in the “Library” sign attracted the manager’s attention, because as my friend, Carol, and I got up to leave, he asked if we would like to see what was behind the door.

He introduced himself as Roberto. He told us a little about the owner of the restaurant and his other ventures, as well as who the chefs were. We learned that “The Library” was actually a private function room; at least for now. There were other plans afoot.

There were assorted books on shelves at one end of the room, but it wasn’t a functioning library. I didn’t care. We had a private tour. At intervals for the rest of the day, Carol or I would say, “Roberto,” and then we’d both giggle. We’ve been friends since junior high school. It doesn’t take much for us to revert to youthful silliness.

After meandering downtown for a bit, we took the Green Line to the Museum of Fine Arts. En route, I found myself standing next to a seeing-eye dog, who was nestled under his owner’s feet. The woman was sitting in a single seat near the door. I marveled at how the dog slept so contentedly, despite the constant lurching and stopping and starting of the train.

We pulled into the next station, and dog and owner stood up. To my amazement — for they are trained not to do so — the dog came over to me and sniffed my leg.

“Well, hello,” I said. The owner apologized. “No problem,” I replied. “I’m a dog person.” Actually, I was delighted, as was Carol when he sniffed her leg.

We emerged into the light as the train rattled down Huntington Avenue. Winter can be confining in New England. I could go for weeks without having random encounters with strangers. I could so easily get stuck in a rut. I could so easily sleepwalk through my life.

But here I was, standing in the sunshine, watching the city flash by. The day was not yet half over. The tiny adventures would continue. I smiled.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].

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