Monday, May 10, 2010

Step Outside

So I'm back! That may be a big... 'what?' from you, as I scheduled ahead, and yesterday WROTE the blog from my conference, but NOW I am actually sitting at home (after some big giant challenges getting home—mother's day is a cursed day to try to fly—second one I've spent in an airport all day because of a broken plane, but never mind...)

I had some very interesting experiences on this trip to Baltimore. Living in Ann Arbor, where reality never comes, can be an insulating thing. People think a certain way—even if that is mostly an educated way, and I can forget the lives and characters (and I mean characters in every sense) that are out there. Oh, sure—there are still annoying people—those are everywhere—the person who can't shut up, or gets annoyed by every little thing, or acts like they know everything and everyone else is stupid. I've not felt a shortage for THAT kind of thing, but there are some things I haven't been around for MANY years.


My Meeting

This was actually very good. I like my field for the most part. I study the lives of people who live with pain, and people who care about people's pain, in whatever capacity, are a good group. There are the pharmaceutical salesy folks, and for the most part sales people make me tired, (any sales people), but mostly it is academics (like me) and care providers (doctors, nurses, therapists of every sort).

There was the woman who talked non-stop about herself, her studies, her pain issues.... talk talk talk talk talk. I mean, I know around here it's all about ME, and I do the same, but I do it in writing, which you don't HAVE to read---or you can SKIM—get straight to the good part... I GET that people living with pain are thankful to find people willing to listen—it's one of the problems with chronic pain—the loved ones often have tuned out years ago and people just NEED someone to hear them. But in a GROUP of people, there still needs to be some reciprocity, some taking turns. Everyone being required to focus on only one person is NOT balanced. *rolls eyes *

There was a very COOL woman I sat next to at that group dinner. She was older (approaching 60) and working on her degree (MS, I think), and she was definitely largely than life with her stories. Cracked me up... funny, how being the center of attention if you're FUNNY seems okay, and when you're WHINY doesn't.... She had been married for 40 years and said EVERY month in all that time she and her husband had a date night. They took turns planning, and had had to get very creative early on, when money was scarce. She talked about taking him 'shopping' (you know... the browsing kind where you don't have any money to BUY) but she wore a trench coat—they got to a place in the store with no people (this was pre-security cameras) and she unties the coat—not wearing a stitch underneath! My kind of woman, obviously...



But Post Meeting...

THIS was where the REALLY interesting folks come in (say what? More interesting than a flasher?!) But see... a flasher I already GRASP—I know the motivation there—I know the thoughts.

But Baltimore...

I met my friend Marie and her sweet baboo on Saturday night, after my conference was over—they were driving up from Virginia—couldn't leave until her daughter's (soccer? I think it was soccer) game was over—so there was a delay getting out of town... then there was traffic on the Beltway (I hear there is ALWAYS traffic on the Beltway)... so I went to the Inner Harbor Hard Rock Cafe, where they had an outside seating area... I sidled up to the bar and ordered a Mad Hat (a micro out of Vermont that wasn't bad).

A trio of people come in, and one of them sits next to me and starts talking... nice guy. He badgered me about my beer choice, tried to convince me Wisconsin had better beer—I sited my Oregon roots and went beer snob on him and we had a light conversation about micros (a topic I can discuss at length). Then he gets hyper-alert—his friend, he says quietly, had come back from Afghanistan not quite right. He admitted NOBODY came back mentally in tact, but this friend had a lot more than just that going on...

It's been a long time since I talked to a soldier, and until the conversation, it hadn't really crossed my mind where I was and who is out on the town drinking in Baltimore. Like I said, he was a nice guy—open to some questions, willing to talk. Then suddenly his friend goes into... something... he starts to pick a fight with the guy standing on my other side—there is very nearly an altercation, but the guy I'd been talking to headed it off—took his friend several yards away.

I said to the guy still fuming at the bar—'his friend was saying he wasn't quite right—had had some really bad experiences—try not to take it personally'... and then I start talking to THIS guy—a marine. He'd been really offended that after fifteen years or something—service in a number of places, that this punk was questioning HIM. Understandable. So I talk some psych to him, and PTSD—clearly this other guy had some (I suspect they both did, but the one I was now talking to had better control about it--maturity will do that), so I get a little of HIS story. He's OUT now, and looking into security type stuff—secret service—so I tell him about Deniability—my novel about the agency charged with keeping those folks paranoid. He was amused--didn't give much away, but he looks at me a little differently, a hidden smirk, like he is trying to figure out how my mind works.

After HE had to go, another guy sits down... this one MUCH younger (first half of his 20s)--STRONG stereotypical redneck southern accent (coal miners came to mind, but he was from Virginia, not West Virginia)... we talked a little about family roots—our great great great grandfather's facing each other in the civil war. So I got a window into young and poor—he was married—one-year old and another on the way—does 'labor'--roofing, painting, drywall—for the Federal Government... (guess it makes sense they have enough of that to do that they might as well have their own people... or maybe there is a security clearance regardless of the JOB that needs doing... Very nice kid.

But ANY of these situations feeds so beautifully into types of people/characters that I hadn't really KNOWN before. I mean I have a friend married to an Army Major, but... you KNOW the management is a different thing than the 'grunts' (even elite grunts). It also opened my eyes to the fact that I am MEETING people differently—My writer identity has changed how I see people. I think the marine might have made me really uncomfortable to talk to five years ago (being the tree-hugging liberal I am) but I really was interested in what made him tick this time—instead of trying to scrabble for common ground (the old approach) I wanted to understand.

And of course Marie was impressed that when she got there two hours later than planned, I was talking to my fourth man at the bar *snort *.

21 comments:

Jan Morrison said...

I love all those characters you met! They probably don't know they are characters and think they're just people but you and I know differently don't we? All is subject to our novels' needs...
Please check out my response to your 8th of May posting - I couldn't post it until today...

Cruella Collett said...

I absolutely loved this post, Tami. PEOPLE, man! People are so darned INTERESTING! And I agree, seeing people as characters make them even more interesting. Getting to know new people, and new characters - extremely interesting!!! I need to do more people-watching :)

And - *snort* - my word verification was "funny food". In Norwegian, that is... *giggles*

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

People ARE interesting. You did well to talk to them...usually I'll just eavesdrop and watch them :) Whenever I stretch myself to step outside my ordinary group of friends, I learn something that can help me create a character.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The whiney person is never the center of my attention for long.

Watery Tart said...

Jan--saw your FABULOUS 8th of May post! And yes... novel's needs much come first!

Mari people ARE interesting, aren't they!? (got your post card and pins when I got home--I LOVE them!

Elizabeth-I only watch if I'm drinking COFFEE, but beer gets the tongue wagging, if you know what I mean...

Watery Tart said...

Alex! You snuck in there! Sometimes the whiny one just WON'T stop talking though--I am too well socialized to just walk away, so I can get STUCK...

Readers Dais said...

Hi!

people find it difficult in finding people who lend their ears, and here i see someone who hve lent it to many ( so we got this post right ? )
the people u met and their characters mentioned seemed interesting...

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

What??? Tami??? Is that your real name?

Ahem ...

I know exactly how it feels to spend time with a 'me me me - my pain my pain' person. As you know my mother was one. I did shut off completely at one point and just consoled her robotically without a care in the world. It didn't do me any good, because I became completely intollerant to sickness. Whenever someone was sick, I could feel a million eyes roll around my head, while thinking, "just get over yourself."

But that's horrible, and really selfish. I had become REALLY selfish and started not to care at all. That was until I realised that the man I fell in love with had a similar panic disorder to my mother(I know, how the hell did that happen, right? What am I a magnet to this stuff?)

Anyway, my point is, because of this, I had become a 'me me me - what about the pain you are causing me' kinda person. I didn't like that, and I've had to force myself to find some compassion - becasue ultimately, if my partner, was run over by a truck, instead of suffering a panic attack, I wouldn't be rolling my eyes, would I? He suffers. And I have to help him get through it and put my bitterness aside. It's hard, but I'm starting to get better at it.

Watery Tart said...

Readersdai--welcome! And thank you! I do like listening, but seeking out new people to listen to is newer in my skill set.

Jessica--Tami is my FIRST name, but I drop it for the writing stuff--the rest of my name is mine, too though. I think your reaction is a pretty normal one (as is meeting NEW people to try to fix the relationship that didn't go so well the first time)--it is exhausting day in and day out. It's good to have recognized it--to go forward from there. I wish you the best sorting it out! (my husband has similar demons to the ones my dad never dealt with, so you really have my well wishes and sympathy there)

B. Miller said...

My roommate has PTSD... we handle it together. He was in the desert for 2 years and had to go through some pretty awful stuff. But I'm his sane person who keeps him on track and he's doing all right. ;)

Glad you had a great trip with lots of adventures and even more writing fodder! Awesome! And thanks for sharing it with us.

Watery Tart said...

Becky-your roomie is lucky to have you. I think stable friends who care enough to help with the bad, but also bring them back around to reality, because it can be really hard--are so critical to getting LIFE back... (as opposed to survival).

Not Hannah said...

Wow...that's pretty much a short story waiting to happen, no?

Watery Tart said...

It IS, isn't it? I wish I was better at shorts, but maybe I oughta give it a shot, anyway.

Marjorie said...

I love talking to new people. Know what I can't stand though? Snootyness. Drive me batty.

Helena Soister said...

Isn't it great meeting the kind of people you're usually never around? It's like feeling your world expand as you talk with them. Of course there are also new people you just wanna get away from...

Marie said...

My dear.. I was impressed (and relieved) that you had been entertained for such a long time. Meeting men? No question with the long legs and gorgeous curly blonde hair that you were blessed with (coming from a vertically challenged and straight haired friend).

It was truly a joy to see you again after all these years! Next time, we'll be on time so that we can have more time together. ;)

Watery Tart said...

Marie-it was truly FABULOUS! I had such a good time and am honored you guys made the drive for me! And it seems to me boys were always easier for you to catch than me... You would have had to fight them off.

Marjorie--totally with you on snobs... I am solidly ANTI snob (a snob against snobbery, if you will... however hypocritical that makes me)

Helena--it's TRUE--I did feel my world expanding! I think much more so with my writer's hat on than in prior encounters.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I travel with my nose stuck in a book these days because I invariably attract the whiny talker. I guess I look sympathetic, or too wimpy to protest. :0

Watery Tart said...

I can see you drawing the person who needs sympathy, Pat--I'd definitely talk to you! (though I try not to whine much...erm... except about being stuck in the airport all of mother's day--whined about that a bit... It's possibly a 'too nice' thing, but there are worse things you could be.

Ellie said...

Everyone has a story; I found your reporting writer self its seeing a different approach!
It is a great way to uncover characters! Being open, changes your focus!

Thanks for visiting me~

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I have always been one to try and understand people. Generally I walk away stumped half the time but I try. My grandmother always said I'd take in any stray off the street. I've always been a people watcher, and love to hear their stories. Most of them anyway haha, I do get on my soap box occasionally.
Always been a people watcher, they intrigue me. Also thanks for visiting my site today. Its like a week old and lonely and kinda pathetic. :( lol