Not What I Intended

23 May 2001

Well. This has not been the day I intended to have. I intended to sleep well, wake up, have breakfast and get ready, take BART up to Oakland and go to a museum and hang out with Susan. Then I was to tell Timprov about what I saw at the museum and how cool Susan, I am sure, would have been to hang out with at said museum. Then I was to write a chapter or so of scintillating prose and throw together the last elements of the supper I'd put in the crock pot in the morning, so that all was ready and the house smelled of garlic, rosemary, sage, and thyme when Mark got home from work.

Instead, I've laid around feeling like creamed shit on toast. (Sorry, Ma. We have these words in the language for a reason, as you've said yourself.) I'm doing somewhat better now -- making it from the chair to the bed or the bathroom or vice versa is not a major effort. I may be able to eat a bowl of oatmeal any minute now, and dinner will get made and eaten, with me doing at least one of those vital steps if not both of them. This is progress.

The journal entry I meant to write was inspired by Liz's last one, "The Trials and Tribulations of Being Beautiful." And since being sick is just not that interesting ("And then I laid there some more...."), I think I still want to write that.

See, I've had similar experiences to Liz's. I've had people get demanding and in my face about hitting on me. Or about other things, for that matter. Protests, Jesus, whatever. Before I moved out here, I had a significant Attitude about people from the coasts and how they act in public. How rude they are. How they don't acknowledge other people's humanity. When I was spending the summer in Ohio (and no, coastal city folk, Ohio does not count as the Midwest), I did an experiment. I smiled and said hello to everyone I passed walking to work in the morning. Thirty-some-odd people. One of them smiled and said hello back. Even her "hello" was so thickly accented that it was clear that she was Not From Around There. Another did a quick U-turn and started walking with me, getting in my space, acting as though I had invited him to father my children right there on the sidewalk. The other thirty-some-odd people looked at me as though I had lost my mind. What was I doing smiling and saying hello to strangers? How disconcerting! How odd! (How Midwestern.)

Well. I've been living in the Bay Area for almost two years. I haven't been living in the citified, interesting parts, as many Davids, er, people will be quick to point out. Concord and Hayward. And yet, there are more people per square mile (or foot) than I've ever dealt with before. And when I'm tired on BART, I act like a coastal city girl. I don't smile at people. I don't meet people's eyes. I act like I'm not surrounded by other people who have independent reality.

In short, I'm part of the problem.

Despite my penchant for clogs, nobody who saw me on BART would know for sure that I was A Harried Midwesterner and thus superior to all of the coastal city folk who act like this by default. Nobody would understand that I'm not like all of those other people who don't smile at them or look them in the eye. Nobody would know that I was just defending myself against unwanted attention. Nobody would grasp my inherent moral superiority.

Which means....

Yeah, I know. I understand why people do it now. There are just too many people around. It's a defense mechanism. But I still think it's not the right thing to do. I still think it would be easier to deal with a trainload of people who don't need to have a conversation with you but will still look you in the eye like you're a person and don't sigh huffily if you're old and take a little longer to get down the stairs. I still think the little gestures matter. It's just that now I realize how much energy they can take if you do this every day.

Some things are worth the energy.

Yesterday on the train I finished reading The Prestige by Christopher Priest. Everything Timprov said about it is true, except that it's not superlative enough. Great book. Fabulous book. Add this to your list. I mean it. Wow. It starts a little slowly, but it's definitely very cool. I also read The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll, which was also good, but didn't blow me away as much as The Prestige did, or as Land of Laughs (same author) did. But they're both worth a spot on the reading list, I think.

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