Sunday, September 22, 2013

Conversations with Strangers. PART IV.

Boise is a place where strangers do not talk in bars, and they hardly engage in grocery store banter. Boiseans talk to each other in circumstances that would make people in other, larger cities cringe. In Boise, the bus has become a great forum for conversation. Add to this, downtown – especially The Grove and 8th street – and public parks. I would not be surprised if parking garages could be added to the list. All of these locations are places in which city dwellers around the world put on their “do not talk to me face” and stick in their ear buds, stare vacantly, or talk on the phone to avoid the crazy person attempting to make conversation, attempting to make them vulnerable. In Moscow, people who tried to talk to strangers on public transit – more than just asking for directions – were shunned. In Boise these conversational locations are somehow encouraged, and the longer I stay here, the more I become used to talking to strangers in previously avoided situations. I do not really want to come across as rude, you know. Boise is a place where you can be walking down the street, in typical city body language for “do not even think about it,” and you may be stopped by a random stranger.

Case in point. Date: Saturday, September 21, 2013 Time: around 4:00 p.m. Location: 8th Street near Jamba Juice and the construction of the new Mormon Temple, sorry, Zion’s Bank.

I was walking at a fairly decent pace down the street toward the Grove. Both of my ear buds were in, and I was listening to Elliott Smith. I was not making eye contact with anyone but looking straight ahead. I hardly noticed the group of kids hanging out by the “rat race” escalator below Shige’s and near Jamba Juice. They are always there. I did not even look over at the new construction, since I see it every day. I did not glance toward the mounds of people I was coming upon. I kept my pace.

Suddenly there was a guy in “punk rock” garb walking alongside me, saying something. I have no idea what he was saying, I was in what they used to call iPod oblivion, which now sounds ridiculous and archaic. When I noticed him, I looked over, kept walking, and raised an eyebrow – as much as possible with my bangs. I took my ear buds out and said in an unwelcoming tone, “What? (as in huh? I did not catch what you were saying because I was listening to music, jack ass.)”

This is my typical tone when someone decides to interrupt my commute. In most circumstances, my hostility turns to friendliness because the person is merely asking for directions to a place that is usually directly in front of them. These circumstances have happened more than once, and the response to my “What?” is usually an “Oh” because for some ridiculous reason, the person did not notice the bright pink things in my ears. And then what follows (if the person is trying to strike up conversation) is an oblivious repeating of whatever they think is so important that they must keep talking, despite my tone.


“Hi. My name is _____.”

I honestly do not remember the kid’s name because I did not care to meet him. I was on a mission – to get to the hair salon. I had not washed my hair in two days and did not particularly feel like talking to strangers, but Boise has worn on me. So, while I kept walking, I did give this kid the time of day but not without taking in his appearance. With a start of a mohawk, a clean, studded camo vest with patches, and no particular odor, this kid quite obviously was not a “real” punk rocker, of the genre that live on the street or ten to an apartment that is supposed to live two. This kid probably lived with his parents or went to Boise State and lived in the dorms. I chuckled to myself. If he only knew the bad asses I hung out with as a teenager.

 “Hi. I’m Kim.”

Without missing a beat the kid said, “You are looking good today, Kim.”

Laughing to myself because of how gross I felt with unwashed hair, wearing jeans and a sweater, I said, “Thanks.” I have to admit this kid had some cojones.

“Can I get your number?” The kid asked.

Continuing to laugh to myself, all the while continuing to walk, I replied, “I don’t even have my phone with me.”

A bit sarcastically this kid said, “Well, do you know your number?”

“Yes, I know my number. What are you going to do with it?”

At that point, I had to stop walking due to the traffic light. There was a small, Boise-sized crowd of people waiting at the light with us.

“I’m going to call you, of course. Well, not today because I don’t have a phone but tomorrow. I will definitely call you tomorrow.”

“Right. So, what are you going to do, memorize my number?” I replied, humored by his ridiculous attempt to seem genuine.

At this point he promptly pulled out the newest little spiral notebook from his breast pocket (another clue that this kid was neither a punk rocker nor a writer). “I’m going to write it in here.”

To humor him, and because he made me laugh, I gave him my number and then said, “How many numbers do you need to win the bet?”

He looked confused, and I had to repeat myself which of course took away from the humor of the situation. But hell, if you are going to ask for a girl’s number in that way, you should expect to be made fun of. As I walked across Main Street and away from this clean cut “punk rocker,” I overheard a couple ladies, from the crowd of people that witnessed most of this situation, asking each other, “What if he asked for your number?” Oh Boise. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

When I was a child, I spoke as a child ...

As a child, I always worried about consequences. I never took the risks that most children did. Consequently, I always felt like I was not having as much fun as my peers, and I probably was not. I did not want to draw attention to myself, get hurt, or get in trouble. I preferred to spend my time observing the world. Watching other children do daring things, and taking note of the incredible lives of ants that hung out in my back yard. I had a hard time doing things like jumping out of a swing or jumping off the high dive. Eventually I convinced myself to do simple things like that. Logically it was safe. But I never jumped off a rope swing into the river, and I never did anything too daring. In my mind, daring things always involved heights or fear of death (usually only perceived, not actual). Childhood was a serious time for me. A time full of consequences. When I got older, I started caring a bit less, but there are still times with those feelings and worry of getting into trouble come back. As an adult, I am expected to act like an adult, be responsible, and not encourage delinquency. I am not supposed to mess around and try to make up for all the fun I did not have as a child.
But sometimes I meet someone else who did the same thing in childhood, maybe in a different way, but someone who took life too seriously and now is trying to make up for lost time and fit in all in before life gets too serious. 
One of these experiences was with a friend who currently is training to be a Navy SEAL. I do not know if there is anything more serious in life than that. When he came to visit before he started training, we explored the Capitol building, and for some reason, we both started feeling a bit like kids. Well, I felt like a kid, he might always feel this way. It might have been the atmosphere. It might have been that in our wandering we somehow felt like we were secretly exploring places that we should not be able to access. Perhaps it was pure mischievousness of the mind, active imaginations, and ideas of the things we could be doing or discussions of what it would have been like to be in these areas with the legislative body in session. Perhaps it was finding an unlocked window that would have allowed us to go onto the roof if we were not observant enough to realize that there were guards down below. It might have been that I have always wanted to go up in the dome of the Capitol – or at least figure out how to access the stairs that lead to the top. Whatever it was, a mischievous child-like quality took over. Fortunately or unfortunately, it was not all encompassing. Consequences remained foremost in my mind …
So, I did not get on my friend’s shoulders and open a window. We did not climb out on the roof of the Capitol. And in the midst of a great game of lava, we stopped running around the Capitol building because I saw a guard.  We most definitely did not play mission impossible and jump from the first floor down to the bottom floor. But I am happy to know my imagination is still intact. I can goof around like a child, even though I am adult.