convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #126


I trudged down the 65 stairs from my apartment to the laundry room, shoved my clothes into the washer, and realized I’d forgotten my laundry detergent. The other two washing machines were busy, so I flew up the stairs before someone else could come down and lay claim to the final washer. Success.

Once all that was settled, I climbed back upstairs to find my wireless wasn’t working. I reset it and unplugged it and did all the usual things, but no luck. I called Comcast was told via automatic voice that service was out in my area and a crew was working on it.

My stuffy nose and aching head were magnified now that I only had the quiet of my apartment for company. More often than not, I read instead of watch TV, but because I no longer could watch TV, it was all I wanted to do.

I walked to the sink and turned the water on, testing it, to make sure it still worked. Old Panama habits die hard, I guess. It did. I had water, heat, electricity. I was fine. I pulled out a book while I waited for my laundry / the internet, whichever was ready first.

It returned within the hour.

Once settled in with Thursday night’s episode of The 100, I folded my laundry and decided I was motivated enough to get the OJ I needed for tomorrow from the corner convenience store.

As I leaned into the refrigerator to grab the last bottle of Tropicana, I heard a woman say “Oh, I’ll be right back” and she dashed out the front door. As I walked up to the counter, a bunch of items were lined up.

Him: It’s cash only.

Me: Okay.

Him: *mutters something about Comcast in accented English*

Me: *realization dawns* Oh, yes. Me too. Mine came back about 10 minutes ago. Hopefully yours will too. I live just up the street.

Him: Oh, good. Maybe yes. No credit cards until then.

Me: *pulls out cash to pay*

As I walked home, my thoughts strayed back to Panama and how the loss of just the internet and cable wouldn’t have slowed their roll. Granted, nothing could slow them down as they’re already moving at a slow pace, but people were freaking out here. I mean, we still had electricity, water, heat, everything but cable and internet.

I guess the difference is that Americans are accustomed to having access to these things and when that access is denied, the loss is felt. Having cable/internet is a luxury and Panamanians are more concerned with the fundamentals like access to clean water and electricity.

Thoughts of privilege and poverty and education and experience and gratitude swirled through my head as I passed a local restaurant and wondered how their Comcast situation was working out and if all those customers had to pay cash because those bills were bound to be bigger than what people carry in their wallets these days, which is to say next to nothing.

I quickly found I had no more room left to think because all the germs in my body were congested in my head and so, I let it all go. Grateful my apartment had electricity, water, internet/cable, and smelled of clean laundry.

convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #125


Her: So, this isn’t the Ritz.

Me: I wasn’t expecting it to be.

Her: I mean, some places have really nice sleep labs.

Me: They do? Oh wow, I didn’t know that. This is sort of what I was anticipating.

Her: So when you’re ready, I’ll have you sit in this chair and we’ll get you hooked up with all the wires so you’ll look like Frankenstein.

Me: *thinks to self: looking like Dr. Frankenstein wouldn’t be much different than I look now. Looking like Frankenstein’s monster however…* *remains silent due to nerves*

I changed into my PJs, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got as comfy as one can be when she’s in a hospital’s sleep lab. The tech was waiting for me when I re-opened the door.

Her: *chats about what the electrodes are for, the red wax pencil, measures my head, my neck, discusses brand of tape used to secure electrodes onto my face*

Me: *sits mostly quietly*

Her: I saw this thing on Facebook. This man was using Drano, you know as you do, to clean a clogged drain and two tiny splashes got on him and now he has flesh eating bacteria. He had to get his hand amputated. They thought they got it all, but now it’s back. I mean, crazy story right.

Me: *gulps* Yikes.

I have zero idea how she expects me to sleep after a story like that?!




“It’s a small one. Smaller than the others, but it’s staying.”

These words filtered through my window as the repair guys measured and argued outside my office. Despite the fact their discussion was infinitely more interesting than the invoices I was paying, their words lingered because it’s something my parents might have overheard at the hospital 35 years ago.

I was a small one. (2lb 6oz) (3 months early). Smaller than the others (other children born at that time, my other siblings). But I was staying.

Windows and babies. Two things not normally paired together. Unless, I guess, you were at a hospital and peering at the babies in the nursery through a window. Or you were my parents (or any parents) and your newborn was in the NICU and you studied the babe within the plastic bubble cradle.

Or you had two men with salty language outside your day job window and eavesdropping lead your mind down this twisty path of memories both real and hearsay.

feelings, travel

snapshots of panama

Airplane view: ships lining up to enter the canal. Waves lining up to crash ashore.

Driving over the Panama Canal in the golden sunlight.

Puffs of dust clearing to reveal boys playing futbol.

Carnival: Half-dressed women, musically inclined men, alcohol and water flowing freely.

Carnival: Fish scales and smoky meat and ceviche in plastic tupperware and shady spots out of the blasting sunshine and $1 beers.

Margaritas so strong you remember the night you stopped drinking them.

Sustained 25mph winds that make 78 degrees feel chilly. Warding off the chill with only a scarf wrapped around your shoulders.

Using your phone as a camera only. Thick, salty, wind blown hair.

Familiar faces making an unfamiliar setting recognizable.

Air dried hair. Sunscreen as foundation and bug spray as makeup. Sunglasses. Chapstick.

Getting more smiles than stink-eyes from 2yo V. Rooming with 4yo O. Reading Curious George 4x a day.

Learning life hacks; bathroom edition. Dumb questions and honest answers and genuine support in the face of a dirty task and laughter and success.

Measuring my steps not via FitBit but by high tide (100) and low tide (500).

Swimming adrenaline junkie style. Accidentally unleashing helicopter and motor boat rescue efforts.

Thoughts of Camp Nyoda swim lessons keeping you calm in the face of a crazy current.

Getting the chance to experience your friends living their new life.

No water, no electricity, but, a house full of problem solvers.

Beach day. Showering in the ocean. Bravely battling but ultimately losing the fight against the waves and seaweed.

Carnival: night edition. Fancy dresses, glittering head pieces, dancing in the street, drums, a yodel that sounds like a mountain goat’s mating call, shots of Seco, cold beer.

Sandy feet, sandy beds, sandy floors, sand dollars, beach living.

Homemade meals, dishes for 7 done in a tiny sink with limited water and even more limited drying rack space. Using my dishwashing powers for good.

Plantains. Fried. Grilled. With honey. With aioli.

Broken Spanish. Clear intentions. Communication achieved.

Roadside fruit stands with limited, but the freshest most delicious produce imaginable. Frozen pipa. Not there or not available in terms we recognized.

Drinks in the afternoon, in the evening, in the least-windy-corner of the patio.

Secrets shared, personality quirks explained, friendships deepening as quickly as the setting sun.

Kickball competitions with O, the broom being an important tool, sticker books, the human body as a jungle gym, I spy, V’s gymnastic movements.

Well water excursions, grocery store adventures, sharing bills.

Panama brand beer (not delicious), Soberana brand beer (delicious), Balboa brand beer (delicious), ecto cooler lime juice margaritas, gin&tonics not made with Bacardi, Seco with muddled oranges or grapefruit + pineapple juices, instant coffee.

Pushing your limits emotionally, physically, gastro-intestinely.

The hammock. The beloved orange hammock gently swinging in the wind. Cat naps.

Rising with the sun (thanks, V Bird) (thanks, O Man), throwing open all the windows and doors, brightening the house and doubling its size.

L and N absolutely killing it with their driving (N) and navigational (L) skills. Me, quiet in the backseat taking it all in, wishing I had 1/8th of either of those skills. Learning the Google Maps app trick.

Memories tucked into my pockets with seashells and grains of sand.