convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #127


It was early morning, before work, when I climbed into the Lyft. Winding our way through Cambridge, Somerville, and Watertown, he told me about being accepted into Berkeley music school, his upcoming audition, “going ham” on learning piano, his DJ gigs and 3,000 songs needed as a minimum, working on airplanes as “clean and secure” personnel, flying standby, aerospace engineering not being creative and instead too much rigidity, publishing, resume building, geography, and the best route to get to the doctor’s office.

I was nervous about my upcoming appointment so I was happy to let him ramble on, but my anxiety pinged as I heard his own blare through.

“Why would they accept me when there are so many other people who can play better?” he said.

“Because the music industry needs all types of musicians. There’s room for you all.” I said.

As we pulled up to the doctor’s office, he thanked me for my optimism and I thanked him for the ride.

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?!


convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #123


This particular street is very difficult to cross due to its high traffic levels and speed limit. Essentially, you have to wait for the light to change.There are four points of crosswalk entry, and at each one, the button to push that will allow you to cross is not the normal squishy kind. It’s stiff and has limited motion and the only way you know it’s working is if a little red light goes on. As far as I can tell, the red light only goes on if you’re the first pedestrian to register in. So, despite one’s insistent pushing, the red light might not go on because it’s on elsewhere or it might be that you haven’t found the right angle to trigger the system. All you can do is wait and wonder.

A woman walked up 30 seconds after I finished the routine of pressing, pounding, yelling at the light switch. After another minute of cars whooshing by, I stepped back over to the switch and tried again. No red light signaling it accepted my request, but there were people waiting at two of the other crosswalk entry points. After two more minutes, I prepared to either frogger my way across the street or start the whole light switch thing all over again. As I shifted towards the light switch…

Her: *half smiles at my efforts* Did it catch?

Me: Not yet. But the light doesn’t always go on. This is so temperamental.

Her: Let me try.

Me: Go for it.

*red light illuminates* *traffic light immediately flips to yellow*

Me: Yay! Nice work.

Her: Sometimes you have to work it.

Me: I’m glad you were able to!

And with the crosswalk signal lighting the way, I was one step closer to the office / work day.

convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #122


Him: Good morning.

Me: Good morning.

A simple exchange, but you see, he’s a school crossing guard and I am neither a school child nor the parent of one. He presides there on the corner of two crosswalks every school day. A neon yellow vest, a handheld stop sign, and a penchant for small talk. I’m a pedestrian without a small child tugging on my attention, and so am able to check for cars/pass quickly across one of the crosswalks under his guard. He doesn’t need to raise that stop sign for me.

Instead, he offers me a warm greeting.

Maybe it’s that crossing guards are a rare breed of kindness or maybe this is a look into my future (kids, school days) via a crystal ball crossing guard?