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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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 *.