My husband said, “Don’t talk to just anyone, be careful.” He said that early Friday morning after I got up before the crack of dawn (like I always do) and burst into tears because he wasn’t going to go with me and I could not endure another second here, not one more, not even a fraction of a second. I promised to be careful and judicious if I talked to anyone.
I don’t drive, never have, never will. Oh, I can drive, I know how to, I simply choose not to. I don’t have any interest in paying close attention to what other people may do. I like to star gaze and lollygag, I’m especially fond of those activities when I’m in transit. I used to ride a bike in New Orleans where, otherwise polite, southerners were forever honking their horns and quite often raising their finger to me in the international gesture of love and affection.
The very first conversation I had was with a semi-retired couple at the bus station. I was privy to their exchange due to my exceptional listening skills. It’s all a blur so I can’t really remember but I’m pretty sure I interjected one of my closely held beliefs into their discourse. I distinctly recall being very amused when they spoke sharply to one another over where the tickets were. They were on the way to England to visit her aging parents. I told them that I burst into tears but I had to leave my husband behind in the hinterland before I went stark, staring nuts. They clucked and nodded sympathetically. It turns out they had labored together in his architectural firm where they too had WORKED ALL THE DAMN TIME.
It took me three hours to get to Portland and it was worth every minute of the time it took. Joy of all joys, I took the Metro bus to the mall. I am not a mall shopper but there are things at the mall that can’t be found anywhere else for a reasonable price. I talked to a sweet high school couple during the ride. The bus driver reached the pinnacle of customer service, greeting each rider and thanking them when they departed. At one point, 3 Asian school girls ran, breathless, for the bus and he waited for them like a benevolent dad. The first Friday of the month is the Portland Art Walk; galleries and studios are open, weather permitting there is music in the streets. I just happened to get off the bus in the middle of it all. The were gaggles of humans, older people from a visiting cruise ship and a parade of art school students and musicians. You can just imagine the imprudent dialogue….
I missed my husband all weekend long. I called him repeatedly to report on breaking news and important discoveries. Last night he called me while I was having supper at Flatbread www.flatbreadcompany.com. It was getting darker so I knew what he was up to. “Where are you?” he asked. “Oh, I’m just eating a brownie sundae then I’m going back to the hotel. Don’t worry, it’s not even dark yet.” I can’t recall precisely what he replied- sometimes the filter works so well that my listening skills are diminished. I reassured him and we laughed.
I spent the whole meal overhearing, not to be confused with eavesdropping, a conversation between two women friends, about my age, who had concerns similar to mine in their lives. I did not interrupt them but I considered the points they made as I ate my salad (the best one I have EVER eaten) and later the aforementioned sundae. When it was time to depart I could not resist making a comment to them and the next thing I knew we were deep in discussion. It turns out that they had shared creative interests, which is how they became friends. They offered to walk me back to my hotel so my husband wouldn’t worry but it wasn’t at all necessary.
Today on the way home, a young father with his over-tired toddler sat in front of me. She was cranky and fussy, crying intermittently the way small children do when they need a nap but can’t or won’t take one. I spent the last leg of my trip home entertaining her so she wouldn’t fuss.
Every unauthorized, spontaneous, unguarded interaction I participated in yielded the same conclusion. We’re alike in the most important ways. We love, we worry, we care and hope for the best. It’s comforting.