06 November 2012

Election Day and... Karen

There's something very bad about working seven days a week for seven months.  It isn't conducive to enjoying one's industry and doesn't lead to the pursuit of extra-curricular writing.  At least it didn't in my case.  It was almost unbearable, and yet there's a satisfaction at being able to survive waiting at the end.  Now that it IS over, we return to our regularly scheduled pursuit: the discussion of full-time enjoyment of humanity.

Why?  Because People ARE Candy and it's time I indulge.

This is Karen.  It's election day here in Northern Virginia, as it is everywhere in the United States and presumably, at a few other locations around the globe.

As we all know, it's been a nasty, vicious and particularly partisan year or two.  Lots of people are feeling very emotional about a lot of things and little of it is positive.  The campaigns have spent preposterous amounts of money to offend each of us to the point where almost no one has any good feelings about the political process.

Anyway back to Karen, who as you can see, is in Costco, which is where we met.  We met while waiting to get some lunch.

I was waiting in one of three lines and got tired of watching the woman in front of me grab the (large-ish) backside of the man who was buying her lunch.  Really, as if they were all by themselves instead of another human standing approximately 18 inches from those grabby hands?  I turned away to see what else could be more enjoyably looked at.  And there was Karen.

I smiled at her.  She smiled back.  I leaned in a tiny bit and said "Isn't it amazing?  For once in our lives, we seem to have gotten into the FAST line!"  She agreed and noted that for some reason, no one in the two (much longer) lines next to us seemed to have noticed our good fortune.

We chuckled about that and a few moments later, it was my turn at the counter.  I walked up, ordered my lunch and toddled off to the soda fountain.

I got myself a diet soda and went off to sit at one of Costco's white benches.  I sat down and then looked around.  It's an odd thing, finding friends in Costco lines.  It's only a tiny bit more personal than talking to strangers on a plane, because of course at any time, either party can get up and walk away.  But it's great practice for conversation, friendliness and engaging with one's fellow humans.

I'm ashamed to say that I've let my work, which is so much about people, overwhelm the rest of my life for the last 7 months.  I love meeting and talking with people, but after so much regularly scheduled, daily work-related interaction, I've come to cherish the times when it was not required.  I've let the personal pursuit of people-candy go by the wayside.  Today was my first day back as a social human.

(I know this because I did the same thing with a woman at the voting location and had a lovely time there, too, but one doesn't take pictures at voting locations.  Election photography is best left to professionals.) 

I looked back over my shoulder, caught the woman's eye and waved her over.   Very amiably she agreed to eat lunch with me.  What a great compliment, right?  That someone, a total stranger met only a few minutes before, would risk lunch with me?  I asked her name and offered my own.  She's friendly, you see, from a generation that values interaction with a friendly human of apparent good humor and reasonable mind above spending the time chewing on mass-produced pizza over whatever information is coming down the latest gizmo in the hand.

Karen is an Army wife.  Her husband is retired now, but in those years of moving around to postings, she has learned a few things about making friends.  She has three daughters and eight grandchildren.  She didn't offer any great life lessons over lunch.  She didn't tell any great secrets about herself, her family or anything else.  But she did reinforce my belief that people are good and fun and infinitely preferable to sitting alone at lunch or with one's nose pressed to the screen of a tablet, smartphone or anything else electronic.

I won't bother to tell you how old she is, because she is older than she looks and entitled to the youthfulness that your mind bestows on her.   But to me, Karen was a sirens call to return to what I like.  Because People Are Candy.  And even more than budget-minded pizza, I like to gobble them up.