Stranger #78: Random Human Interactions

Drinking a few adult beverages and staying up until 1:00 a.m. may not appear to be a sound step to wellness. Never underestimate the healing powers of a good night out.   

My friend invited me out on St. Patrick’s Day. She had an earlier commitment, “Can you meet me around 9?” NINE?  Logic and stamina protest quickly in the internal debate. My foolish heart wins. I’m 42, not 72. I meet her at nine.

We enjoy our view and a good beer. Inevitably, it’s time to take my tiny tank to the bathroom. A rove reporter equipped with a camera and press hat (minus the press card), joins me in line.   

She asks permission to take my picture for her Flickr photo stream.  I am wary. She remains enthusiastic and forthright. So what’s your story?

I have so many. Thus, I can’t muster up a single one. My name is Amy. I’m 42. I have one kid. Oh, I knew you were a mom as soon as I saw you. [Cringe] Do you have a partner to go with that kid? Yes, I’m with my baby’s daddy. He’s home. It’s my night out. But I have better stories than that.

Well, you’re 42. Of course you do. I knew that just by looking at you. She is sincere. She sees my potential. I like Press Hat. I agree to a photo.  

It’s my turn to enter the hole of a bathroom, painted the hottest of pinks. Two pads have kindly been left on the back of the toilet. Just in case. It warms my heart. I rack my brain for a good story while I pee.    

When I emerge, Press Hat admits leaving the pads, my opinion of her elevates. She is now drawn to a woman wearing an astronaut-esque, quilted, fur-lined silver and white pantsuit with bell bottoms, accessorized by a rainbow boa and elbow-length rainbow gloves. Rainbow Girl queries, “Why does everyone wear green on St. Patrick’s Day? Why not wear the rainbow where the pot of gold is? It’s just as important. Besides… Ragstock was completely out of gold lamè halter tops.”

I like Rainbow Girl. “Uh, I HATE that when that happens” I then register my complaint that Rainbow Girl now trumps 42 Year-Old Mom. Press Hat replies. No one trumps anyone here.

You can find Stranger #78 here, sporting her conservative dark green turtleneck. She is followed by Stranger #79, donning her decorative rainbow boa.   

Press Hat finds me later, excited about her acquisition of a free beer.  I’ve thought about you 2 or 3 times tonight. I want to hear a story.  I am ready for bed. My buzz has faded into a dull headache.  I’m postponing my transition from the colorful, dreamy mugginess of Mickey’s to my cold, dirty Jetta. I’m out of wit and banter.  

What is it like, settling down? Being a mom and a wife. What do you feel?

Relief. I feel relieved. I focus on and enjoy friends’ conversation. I people watch without searching. I feel safer. I share with her that it was wise for me to become a parent later in life. I had some crazy shit to flush from my system. She shares that she’s a serial monogamist. Just ended a relationship two months ago. I offer my condolences.  

Do you resent it a little? Being a mom? Sometimes?

No……………………..yes.

I don’t miss the searching, the smoke, the loneliness, the hangovers. I do miss these arbitrary exchanges. The bathroom line bonding. Sage advice from a shady character on a bar stool. Oddballs who approach your table with cheesy one-liners or a comment beyond left field. Strange men selling Packer birdhouses. Ballsy women with cameras and press hats.

I miss the increased chance for random human interactions. Those that stir something in you more quickly than daily conversations with your usual suspects. Brief connections that both introduce you to life’s characters AND bring out your best side for a fleeting, quality moment. A flash of being “on”, entertaining, worth listening to. An instant made compelling in its brevity. Linger longer, and you lose that power.   

We talk some foolishness. I’m forcing it now. I feel our relationship coming to an end. It’s time for her to step out for a smoke. It’s time for me to step into the cold Jetta and drive back to reality. It saddens me a little.    

Can I kiss you on the forehead? I lean in. She plants a firm one. Smack dab in the middle.

On the way home, I think, “Why didn’t I tell Press Hat that I lived in Spain illegally for over a year? That I hitchhiked from Granada to Morocco, got a ride from hash dealers near Torremolinos? That I was a reproductive health educator in San Diego, fondly referred to as the Sex Lady by my students? About living in a laundry room in Santa Cruz where I had an altercation with clown plumbers? About sitting on a Chechuan rooftop, Abdul insisting that Neil Armstrong heard the mosque adhan from the moon (explaining, of course, why Armstrong converted to Islam upon his return?).  That I cooked for a mansion full of Italian millionaires in Albuquerque, NM, with an ex-convict dishwasher as my assistant.  I have some kick ass stories. Why didn’t I tell them?  

I came to some conclusions there on Hwy 51 inside my little kissed head. I value interesting people. I value being an interesting person.  I regret that I spent so many single years searching instead of courageously wearing rainbows and thoughfully leaving pads for other women. Now, although it brings me great joy, the descriptor “42-year old mom” bores me. Oh, I’m keeping my mom-wife role. I’d be a complete fool to fuck that up. And I’m at a point in life where I don’t really give a rat’s ass if someone in a crowded, funky bar thinks “Mom” when they glance my way. I do give a rat’s ass that I think “Mom” when I glance my way in the dirty mirror of a hot pink bathroom.  

It’s time to stop tapping into glory days of my past to demonstrate how interesting I am. Does it help that I was once The Sex Lady? Sure. But I need some new kick ass in my life. I need fresh, crisp answers to the question, “So what’s your story?”  I need to roll a pair of metaphorical rainbow gloves up beyond my elbows. It’s time to bring all that new, vibrant color I feel churning around in my insides out to the surface. Enough, “I want to be a…”., and more, “I am a…”   

My name is Amy. I’m a successful writer. I change the world from my kitchen. I feed people well and make them very happy. I give my son wild, new adventures. We stare into the stars and scream into canyons and dunk our heads all the way under. Oh, and I’m pretty rich. Why not? Let me buy you a beer and give you sage advice from my barstool. What’s your story?

Screw therapy. Find life’s lessons in a good night out and random human interactions.

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