Do you ever float through life without noticing people?
I’m like that much of the time. I don’t wonder about their lives, I don’t think about what their homes and families must be like, and most of the time I do not extrapolate from their appearance what they must be about; I’d like to say that it feels judgmental of me, but honestly I think that a lot of the time I’m immersed in the chaos of my own mind – the thought patterns that swirl around half-formed plots, concerns about malingering two-dimensional characters, songs that spin their way around my cranium like a wild boar let loose in an antique store; not to mention day-to-day things like bills, groceries, gasoline, work. . . you know, stuff.
I’ve got stuff to worry about; but sometimes the fog clears from my lenses and I see clearly for just a few minutes. This situation is so rare that it gets me noticed. The last time it happened was a few years back; I was with my wife somewhere – I don’t even remember where – and I made some pretty funny comments about this person, then that person. She accused me of being a pretty good people-watcher, and ever since then I have wondered how I might be able to tap back into that observational reservoir on demand.
So after getting the Daily Post prompt in my email today, I thought about how I managed to get out of the house early this morning because I spent an hour working on consolidating my wife’s student loans, and then I wanted to make sure I had time to mail the alternative documentation of income form. After running by the post office and dropping the mail in the box shortly after 6:20, I went to Starbucks and ordered a venti blonde with extra nonfat milk. I thought about the lives the baristas must live – they get up as early as I do and go straight to work, and they start to hustle. They stock the pastries, they make the coffee, and then people like me come in with just a couple of minutes to spare and hope to Bob that they can get me coffee before I have to go again. But this morning I had time to burn, and I swear, if there was milk in my blonde roast I did not taste it. . . and they had to brew it fresh.
I tried to think about how my co-workers might conduct themselves outside of work, but it’s hard when you’re busy. There’s Brant the volunteer rural firefighter whose idea of cardio is sex; Sheynna the girl from Wisconsin with a fake eye and another recent brush with melanoma; Paul, who leaves work every day, only to go build his family’s house; Keith, who looks like Chuck Norris and can be almost as ornery as Yosemite Sam; Cody, who struggles every day to find a way to get us ahead of the burgeoning seasonal demand for snow blower attachments; Dewayne, Chris, Big Ty, Little Ty, Mike, and the new material handler – one of those young girls who always looks like she’s worried about something – unless you get her to smile. You get those little details about them, you talk to them when you have time, but it’s not enough to construct even the barest mental simulacrum of a full life.
I went back to Starbucks for lunch, saw the same baristas – this time I ordered a skinny vanilla latte. It tasted much better and cost twice as much, but I had a reward so my lunch was free. I had to run, though – it’s ten minutes to drive there, five minutes inside, ten minutes to drive back, and five minutes to shoot the breeze with Brant, Keith, and Daisy before clocking back in. That’ll do, kids.
I got off work after eight hours today because the Whitney was down. It’s a sad situation when that happens, but I didn’t worry because I took tomorrow off; I’m treating myself to a three-day weekend for my birthday. Yum! I had to run home and shower quickly so the wife and I could go back to the plant for our yearly health assessment, which gets me a twenty-dollar-a-week discount on my health insurance. For those who’d like to know, the lady gave me an A+. BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, everything. And on the way I saw a few of the people who worked around the plant; a forklift driver and his wife; James, the LEAN coordinator; and I wondered about their lives for a fleeting moment in between trading my daughter back and forth with my wife. Not enough time for consideration – and the people who so efficiently took our metrics? Very personable people – they must be bulletproof to travel around and do this all the time, setting up health assessment clinics at client sites. They travel to do that, I know because I overheard one of them talking to another about it.
So am I really that aloof, or what?
It’s a tough call – maybe I’m too much of an internal person; or maybe – just maybe – I’m so selfish that the failure to think of others is a behavior that I’ve internalized over the 36-year course of my life. Am I worried about that?
Not so much.
This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.
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