Monday, June 27, 2016

Bag Lady Report: Conversations with three men

I can be a curious woman when I'm sitting in a waiting room with other people waiting around me, and sometimes even a short conversation can be interesting. Recently I had three.


Last week, I arrived at Massage Envy at Northgate Mall. I was ten minutes early for my appointment, thanks to my husband Art's penchant for getting places on time. He assumes every light will be red, so we leave early if he is driving. This was one of those days.

The man sitting next to me in the waiting room wore a red hoodie that proclaimed "Team Rubicon." I read it aloud and he looked up from his phone. I said "What's Team Rubicon?" He put his phone on the table and told me it's an organization of former military first responders joined with civilian first responders. They work with disaster prep and disaster relief. He'd been in Seattle all week, along with many others from around the country, working on a simulation for the massive earthquake that's predicted to occur here with the next few decades. He said, "My squadron's job is to assess the condition of airports after a disaster, and to call in engineering help as needed. Even if everyone who lives here is killed in the disaster, people coming in from elsewhere will know exactly what to do."

The webpage for Team Rubicon is inspiring and impressive.

Disasters are our business. Veterans are our passion.

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

I introduced myself. His name is K.C. and he grew up in Kirkland, Washington,  but now lives and works in Washington DC. I said, "You know, I think it would be great if there were a program that takes returning vets and puts them to work - with their strategic and tactical thinking, teamwork, leadership and discipline - rebuilding our infrastructure. It would be such a useful way for them to continue being of service." K.C. said, "The company where I work now is involved with that."

I gave K.C. my card and asked him to send me information. I would love to be part of that effort. I explored the Team Rubicon website. What a great idea.


Also last week, I took my eight-year-old iMac to the Apple Store to have its data erased. I hadn't used it in two years, had misplaced the recovery disk and couldn't remember the administrative password to log on. I sat at the Genius Bar next to a young man who was having something done with his iPad and his iPhone.  The man said, "What are you doing with your computer when it is erased?" He had a faint but charming accent. I said, "I'm going to donate it to Goodwill." He said, "I will buy it from you." "Really? How much?" "Fifty dollars. But my wife has the money and she has gone with the mother to buy some socks. Can you wait?"

"Whose mother?"

"Her mother is my mother."

We introduced ourselves. His name is Dimitri and he came to the United States from Ukraine in 2000, when he was eleven. We chatted about the stereotypes we can have about people from other countries, and about the other countries themselves, and how they often don't match up with reality. I told him about watching a show last week with a scene shot in the Moscow airport. A very modern place that didn't correspond at all to my young adult perception of a country supposedly going to seed. I expected something more utilitarian and primitive anywhere in Russia, even today. Not so.

We both watched the Apple Store door, but the wife didn't appear. Then I said, "I will give you my computer for $40, since you had the idea." I gave him my card and said, "Send me the money." He said, "I don't have a checkbook." I said, "Put two $20s in a folded sheet of paper and then put them in an envelope addressed to me."

While I was at the Apple Store, Art had gone to Comcast to turn in our equipment, since we'd decided on another carrier. When he picked me up, I told him about the conversation I'd had with Dimitri. I asked him how his experience in the Comcast waiting room had been. He said, "I had to wait about 15 minutes. The Mariners game was on. It was the third inning." Then he told me about every play that had happened in the game while he sat there waiting. No conversations for him!

On Saturday, the money arrived. $40 in a folded sheet of paper, in an envelope addressed to me, from Dimitri in Everett.


Last weekend Art and I were having dinner on our back deck and he was telling me a story. Art uses many pronouns and, try as I might, I sometimes don't know who he's referring to. So I'll say something like "Who is 'they'?" or "Who is 'he'?" In his mind Art is perfectly clear as to who he's talking about, so he sometimes gets impatient with me. He says I'm an English major (true that) and just trying to correct his grammar (not true that, but his perception).

Anyway, he said, "My friend Bob didn't like his daughter's boyfriend. So Bob asked another man, a friend down on his luck, to live at Bob's house in the hopes that Bob's daughter would meet him and then end her relationship with her boyfriend. Eventually he married her."

Long silence while I tried to figure out who "he" was in that last sentence. Finally I had to ask.

Art rolled his eyes. Then he reached for the salt shaker. "This is the girlfriend." The pepper shaker. "This is her boyfriend." A fork. "This is the friend down on his luck."

"So who married Bob's daughter?"




nik said...

You are definitely a people person. Thought that the first time we met. Love the random interactions with people also. I especially chuckled at Art's description/definition. It truly sounded like something Ron would say/do.

Deb Shucka said...

I love everything about this post. It's you on the page. The Art story made me laugh out loud. I'm glad I didn't have coffee in my mouth. :-)

Contrarian said...

I too laughed out loud at the Art story :) Mostly because of the description but also because I am Art and David is you. I am continually telling him that he obviously isn't listening because it is perfectly clear to me... :)

Linda Reeder said...

And the dish ran away with the spoon!
Oh my. I have that husband/pronoun problem sometimes too.
Your other encounters are wonderful.

Terra said...

These are 3 great stories and I like that Dimitri came through and paid you, and that you trusted him. And how interesting that the "fork" married the young lady.

Olga said...

I don't think I have ever had a conversation in a waiting room or a lunch counter or a grocery store line although I watch others so it with ease. That is others can strike up a conversation with strangers, but I can just watch that happen.

Debbie V. said...

Great stories. Thank you for making me feel more human :)
I have the pronoun problem with both men and women. Also the problem where people call other people by first name in their stories and I'm trying to guess who they are talking about. As if I remembered some long ago conversation where the person was identified.

Carole said...

That last story was too funny. My husband does the same thing :-) I'm always interrupting saying "wait, who is they/he/she?"

All those pronouns! I guess I am just too precise. I try hard to avoid talking in a way that causes pronoun confusion!

Anonymous said...

I talk to everyone. Terry often says, as we walk away, "Do you think they wanted to hear that story?" Why yes, yes I do. I always have a question to ask or a story to tell as I'm out and about. I like spreading some cheer. Whether you like it or not! YOU being the person with whom I'm talking.

Sasha + Saku said...

While I tend to agree with Art's decision to leave early in case of red lights, his use of pronouns is definitely a bit confusing...and humorous too!

You must exude trust in people; your ease in striking up conversations with strangers is a gift I wish I had.

DJan said...

What a fun post! Your stories are all interesting, but the Art story is my favorite. Well done, Linda! :-)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

All are special in very different ways. The last one is very close to to my experience with hubby now. I think he believes over time I've become a mind reader. It gets toy hy at times. Good that your computer found a new home.

Mona McGinnis said...

Yesterday, while waiting for my mango slushie, I noticed the tattoo on the forearm of the fellow next to me - DENISE. Are you still in love with Denise? I asked. He said, Denise is my mom and I have my dad's name on my other arm. So you are still in love with Denise, I said. He left with his order, saying have a nice day to me. And there he was in the parking lot next to my vehicle. He gave me a wave and another smile. I like the human connection. Now, if he had given me the finger instead......

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

I know someone who does that also and it makes me crazy trying to keep up with long stories. I always get the characters messed up. Your first story was intriguing to me- first I didn't know that Washington was expecting a giant earthquake, and second, wouldn't it be amazing to give all veterans an opportunity to work in a program like that. . I wish sometimes they would bring back the CCC, especially since our infrastructure is declining so horribly, especially roads and bridges.

Tom said...

Funny story. I constantly battle the writing students I tutor at the community college to get them to make their pronouns clear. "Who's he?" is a constant question, along with, "Who are they?"

Arkansas Patti said...

Oh dear, I perfectly understood Art. I must be guilty of the same thing.
I always talk to strangers also but don't think I have ever had as interesting a day as you had. Loved the idea of Team Rubicon.

Barbara said...

Love them all but especially the First Responder. I have never heard of that and being prepared is a great idea. Think of what Hurricane Katrina could have been like if we had had prepared responders for that. Red Cross is a great organization but infrastructure is not there speciality. Sounds like a wonderful organization, especially using Vets.

percy kittens said...

"Her mother is my mother"?
He married his sister or they/one is adopted? I'm down with bronchitis right now so news comes slowly to my neighborhood.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I love your three conversations! You made a really positive connection with each of two strangers, and you struggled a bit in conversation with your spouse. And all your readers know exactly how that last one feels. :)

joared said...

Interesting tales of your stranger encounters and initiating conversations. I find most people welcome someone willing to break the ice and your actions confirm that. I haven't heard of Team Rubicon but am pleased to know about them. Living in Southern California I'm well aware of the San Andreas Fault, other fault lines, the high risk in Oregon (even for tsunami) and Washington are all long overdue for a major earthquake, So preparedness is important. Having those who are prepared to help if a disaster is vital. Something stirs Mt.St.Helens occasionally. Wonderful example of trust with the computer incident.