Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Bag of Marbles inside my Head

I haven’t published anything here in a while.  It’s mainly because I’ve not had any ideas I thought were worth sharing, or I felt like what I had to say would appeal to me, myself alone. Or that the ideas had would only generate about a paragraph or so worth of words.  An amount bigger than a tweet, but too small for a blog.  
That’s pretty much the case today, but I decided to write down what I have.  An odd collection of memories, thoughts and observations have been going through my brain this morning.  They’ve been clicking and clacking against each other.  Not combining into something as yet unthought of or coming together to synthesize into some greater insight.  Just bouncing against each other like a collection of marbles in a leather bag.  Like the one I used to have in grade school, filled with clearies, cat’s eyes, puries and steelies.  They’re moving about, clickity-clack, as they make contact, but staying pretty much intact and discreet.  
So, here they are.  The selection I’m jotting down and sharing.  If you happen to spot a pretty little bauble amongst them that you like, let me know.  I might trade it for a big sparkly bumboozer, if you happen to have one.  
Take it or Leave it.
There was this woman sharing the van to the airport in Kansas City when I was returning from WorldCon in August. I recognized her as someone I’d seen on panels previously, so she was some sort of profession something, fan, writer, editor, I know not which.  When we got to the airport, the driver got her bags out of the car and she opened her wallet.  
“I’ve got a hundred and two ones.”  She announced this to the driver as she held out the three bills.  The driver told her the fare, which was about twenty dollars.  
“I’ve got a hundred and two ones.”  She made her announcement again.  She and the driver exchanged words for a moment.  Every other sentence was punctuated with, “This is what I’ve got.  A hundred and two ones.”  
The driver asked the other passengers if we had change.  None of us did.  They exchanged more words.  Then, the woman said, “I’m not giving you the hundred unless you have change.  The trip wasn’t worth that big of a tip.  Are you going to take the two bucks or not?”  
The driver took the two bucks.  She grabbed her bag and headed inside the terminal.  I have no way of knowing how premeditated her actions were.  I do not have a good opinion of her.  
Mental Training for Nerds
I imagine myself giving explanations about things.  Telling people some bit of fact, scientific, social, historical, trivial, that I think is pretty and sparkly, and which I would love to share with others because of how it helps things make sense.  I’m sort of polishing it for the moment when it make come up in conversation.  
This scenario has been playing in my head today.  I’m in a coffee shop or tea house.  A place where people sit and have conversations.  Just as I’m picking out a table and setting my laptop bag in place, a woman at the table next to me asks in a loud voice the people she’s sitting with, a mixed group of five or six people, “Why can’t they just look me in the eyes?”  
I glance over.  The woman is well endowed, as they say.  She is gesturing with both hands toward her breasts.  “Why can’t guys take their eyes off of these?  What’s so fascinating about them?”  
Taking that as my cue, I step up to the edge of their space and reply, “Because women don’t go into estrus.”  
“Huh?”  The woman looks up at me.  Her conversation partners turn to look at me as well.  
I then point out that humans are the only mammals that don’t go into estrus, a period when the females bodies change to signal that they are ready for, and receptive to, procreation.  Humans are also the only mammals that normally stand and walk upright, on two legs.  I then explain that these two facts and not coincidental.  Our upright stance hides most of the estrus signals found amongst primates by tucking the female genitalia between the legs.  Over time, humans evolved to have constantly swollen breasts and wide hips, which mimic such signals, as a way for males to spot and identify mature females with whom mating is possible.  Looking for and recognizing these traits are hard-wired into the male’s brains.  
The scenario ends with me sitting and talking with them about a wide variety of things.  
The unfortunate truth is, though, I don’t get asked to share such things with others as much as I used to.  With the ubiquity of cell phones and the accessibility of search engines, a part of my self-identity I’ve had since a youngster, the person who can answer questions, has withered.  
A Convention of Erics
I was sitting at Starbucks today near where my car was getting serviced, when a strange coincidence took place.  
“A vente pumpkin spice latte for Eric…” 
“A tall Chile Mocha for Eric…”  
“A Shaken Berry Sangria for Eric…”  
I looked up from my computer and started listening more closely.  I thought that it must be drinks for the same person, someone ordering for a group.  But I didn’t spot anyone with more than one drink.  But there was a sequence when every other drink was for someone named “Eric”…
“A vente Chai Latte for Erica…”  
Or Erica.  In my life there have been only three times when I met other people named “Eric.”  Once was in sixth grade, when there were two other “Erics” in my class.  One of them I got alone Ok with.  The other hated me.  
The second time was at my first office job.  There were two other people with the same name, but we spelled it differently.  I was, “Erick.”  One was “Erik.”  And the third was “Erich.”  We were in the customer service department and there would often be a shuffle when a client called and asked for “Eric.”  We joked that they should have put us on the same time so all calls could be routed to us.  
The third time was an acquaintance I met at comic book store that shared my interest in comics and such.  
A bit of irony.  I’ve known two black people that I considered friends who shared my name, both of whom had a last name that began with “B.”  Erik Barker was one of the “Erics” in the customer service department at the job I had.  Eric Brown was the fellow comic book nerd who worked as an attorney for the City of Los Angeles.  I don’t know what it means.  I just note it.  
As I tried to spot the collection of Erics at Starbucks, someone with a 27 inch iMac asked if he could set it up on my table.  He wanted to sell it to someone, and wanted to plug it in to show it worked.  Once he’d done that and the two of them left to complete the deal, the barista was calling out orders for “Mark,” “Joshua,” “Steven,” “Rachel.”  All the Erics had left.  
I was back to being as rare as a golden vein lutz.  
And Then, she was gone…
There was a woman sitting outside on the patio at the Starbucks that I was at.  She caught my eye and I kept looking back at her.  
She was asian.  Attractive.  Long black hair, which she made a point of setting free from its pony tail by pulling out of the the knit band holding it together.  White blouse that looked a bit creamy in the shade of the umbrella.  Blue floral scarf, which took a quick trip around her neck and flowed down the right side of her chest.  
She sat with her back to the low wall separating the patio from the parking lot.  She seemed to be staring intently at the door to Starbucks.  
I figured she was waiting for someone, a friend, a husband, a boyfriend, who was inside getting them drinks while she held a table for them.  I went back to my computer, but kept glancing up to see who had joined her.  
No one did.  She sat there by herself.  Staring intently forward.  
I started watching her more closely.  Spying on her, I guess you could say.  I lowered my head so I’d be partially hidden by the cup for my Chai Latte and the vinyl bag I carried my contact lens care stuff in.  I peeked in between them, trying to imagine what it was she was waiting for.  Or who?  Or was she thinking?  Considering something with such intensity that she could see it floating in the air before her, in the same direction as the door.  
I started writing about her in my journal, wanting to record her, to solidify the memory of seeing her and the intensity of her stare.  As I finished the paragraph, I wondered if she might be waiting for something, or someone, that was as yet unknown to her.  Waiting for something bright and sparkly to impact her life and send it off into a direction other than the one she found herself in.
When I looked up from my journal after finishing the paragraph, she was gone.  Had she spotted me watching her and gotten nervous?  Had she made her decision about whatever it was she was thinking about, then grabbed her things and left to enact it?  
I don’t know.  Never will.  The dealership called right then to tell me my car was ready.  I didn’t spot her, or anyone like her, on the walk back.