Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Five Minute Rule

I’ve once heard it said that life is merely a series of conversations as one person shares their story with another. I am certain this is true. When I reflect upon the events of the day, my thoughts often drift to the people I encounter and the exchange of words between us rather than the minutia of the daily grind. There are several conversations that have become a part of my soul and will remain that way for the rest of my life. For example, I will always remember talking to my Dad as he escorted me out of Moody Coliseum, clutching my college degree in one hand and his arm in the other, or my sister waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me I am going to be an aunt. Of course there are some that I would rather forget (ironically those are the conversations that have been the most formative) and there some that stick out in my mind because of peculiarity, but mostly the exchanges that resonate with me are the ones that cause me to change the way I view the world. One of these conversations took place on Monday afternoon.

Unsuspectingly, I was waiting for my drink at a local coffee shop when a man walked by and commented on my shoes. As a fashionista wannabe (I’m too cheap to be a real one), I willingly accepted his compliment and engaged him in conversation. “I very much like your tattoo. You’re a rebel, aren’t you?” he inquired. Blushing, I smirked and said, “Yes, in my own way I have always been a bit on the rebellious side.” “I knew it,” he said, “I can tell there is something different about you. It is the divine.” Intrigued, I continued talking to the man trying to decipher if he was speaking in more spiritual terms or if he was referring to The Divine One. He asked me a slew of questions but inquired about them in such a way that it was almost as if he already knew the answers. Bizarre.

No topic was taboo for him and he began to tell me about his immigration from Africa to America. Fascinating. His smile was honest and sincere, his eyes piercing as if he was looking not at my but in me, searching to discover who I am. He then paused as if an epiphany jolted his brain. “You are very well balanced. You are very feminine, but you have a masculine side, which is why you are a rebel. Many people are attracted to you and they think it is sexual, but what they are drawn to is The Great I Am.” Though it was a little awkward to receive (and a bit more awkward to write), I had the answer to my question. This man, who has only interacted with me for five minutes, knew more about me than friends I have known for five years. Unsure of what just happened or what was going to transpire, I looked up at him with a glance of affirmation. His eyes were kind. “Now Michelle, what can I do to add value to your life?”

I had no response, not because I did not know, but because of the depth of the query. “No one has ever asked me that question before,” I told him. “Especially with such genuineness.” “Let me rephrase, what can I share with you that will impact your life?” Again, I was dumbstruck. We continued the conversation and exchanged information so that we could, as he put it “celebrate together” (I’m still not sure what this means). I left the coffee shop with a new friend, but I also left with a profound clarity. Everyday I have interactions with people that contain the ritual pleasantries and life catch-ups on my way to the Campus Center or as I walk the halls of my building, but rarely do they involve such intentionality. Do I take the time out of my day to actually see the people that I talk to? Do I have a positive influence on the people I call my friends? Do I take the time become a part of their story, or do I rely on my knowledge about them to maintain the relationship? What can I offer to bring value to peoples lives and why don’t I ask that question to the people that I care for the most?

I don’t know if I will have another interaction with man from the coffee shop, but I do know that he impacted my life by merely posing the question.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Scuttle was full of Crap

Being a native inlander (if that’s even a word), my exposure to all things beach related was limited to a trip to Galveston when I was four, a trip to South Padre when I was fifteen, and whatever I could garner from watching the Malibu Sands episodes of Saved by the Bell. However, upon my move to Southern California, I quickly learned through a self-guided crash course that the sandy inlets bordering the Pacific Ocean have their own distinct culture.

First of all, for the most part, anything and anyone goes. This is one of my favorite features of the laid back So Cal vibe, and if you’re are brave enough to venture into the wilds of Venice, you will learn the true meaning of the afore mentioned phrase. Secondly, the beach at sunset is breathtaking, but chilly (seriously, bring a jacket). Most of the tourists have gone home and the waves are calming down, so it is the perfect time to grab a good book, a cup of coffee and watch the nighttime creep in over the mountains. If you listen carefully, you can hear the sun sizzle as it kisses the water at the horizon. Third, it’s a great place to people watch, if you’re into that kind of thing, but then again, who isn’t.

Among its delights, there are a few drawbacks to being by the water, that namely being seagulls. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals and even aspire to be a dog owner one day, but in my humble opinion, seagulls are basically vermin with feathers that can squawk. I hate them. . . and with good reason.

Seagulls are portly creatures that lack self-awareness. For example, I was having coffee with a student and out of the corner of my eye I see a white sphere of fowl float down from a rooftop and bow onto the umbrella underneath which we are sitting, above my student’s head, to be exact. Within seconds, I hear the green fabric being to seize and cringe under the weight of the bird. “You better move,” I say to my student who was blissfully unaware of the fate that literally was about to befall her. As we are in the process of relocating ourselves to the neighboring table, the umbrella rips under pressure and the seagull crashes onto the concrete slab. Stunned, it inquisitively looks over at us and then jumps to the ground only to continue its pursuit of gluttony as it waddles over to a trashcan and digs in.

Seagulls are selfish and lack intelligence. They will literally stand in the middle of the road and look at you. Chicken should be renounced and renamed seagull because those little buggars aren’t moving. Can’t they read the signs? The specifically say “Be safe on PCH, share the road.” How rude of them. Even if their almond-sized brain does not allow them the mental capacity to learn how to read, illiteracy is no excuse for poor manners.

Seagulls walk strangely. While most creatures of the animal kingdom have a pleasurable if not simply an amusing gait, a seagull’s stroll harkens to that of a drunk trying to pass a sobriety test. Perhaps it is their enormous bellies that infringe upon their athletic abilities or maybe it is their natural lack of dexterity, but whatever the reason, I find it odd that they can shuffle their feet side to side with the ease of a gazelle, but walking in a straight line posses a challenge for them.

Finally, but most importantly, seagulls lack tact. If you are enjoying a picnic with your pals, a seagull will come and join you without invitation. And, if they want a little sample of what you are nibbling on, they take it without regard for you or your feelings. They cut you off when walking down the sidewalk and carry on loud, screeching conversations their fellow seagulls as if they were one of those people who use speakerphone in public. Plus, one crapped on my shoe while I was running at the beach today and it pissed me off.

Anywho, in the animal world, I am sure they serve some sort of redemptive purpose, and I’m sure they are wonderful creatures once you begin to pull back the layers and discover what happened to them in their lives that makes it okay for them to follow you in hoards as you leisurely saunter in the sand and then peck at your toes when you stick them in the water, but as for me, I’m not buying it. Basically, seagulls rank right up there for me with alligators and Sylvester Stallone movies: unnecessary and nightmare evoking.

I feel much better now that I got that off of my chest.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wild Kingdom

Well, it's Friday afternoon on the first week of classes and looking back, I am proud to say that it went pretty well. Four successful CLOMs, a minimal three roommate change request came my way, I did talk to two "concerned" (and by that I mean clingy) mothers who had not spoken to their children in three hours and needed a little reassurance that their wee babes were probably off living their own lives and were fine, and only one woodland creature wandered into my hall despite every external door being propped open. Unfortunately, it happened to be a skunk.

Fear not, everyone is fine and no one tried to capture the skunk and keep it as a pet- this time around. However, this incident falls in a long line of encounters with wildlife in my residence halls. Of course you have your run-of-the-mill fish, hamster, hermit crab incidents, and even a puppy once in a while, but I once opened a room door during rounds and through the darkness I saw two red beady eyes reflecting in the light from the hallway. With a quick flip of the light switch, I saw it, a caiman swimming around in a kiddy pool in the middle of the room (I think this incident significantly contributed to my strong phobia of alligators/crocodiles). I have also encountered a family of raccoons that decided that my front porch would now be their living room and would try to attack me every time I would try to go into or out of my apartment. But the one that takes the cake involves a hot summer night and a flying rat.

After going to dinner with some of my friends, we decided to back to the hall and watch a movie in the lobby. After a while I excused myself to go put on my pajamas and started the long trek down the hallway to my room when something quickly buzzed past my head. Startled, I looked around only to see a bat making a u-turn in the middle of the hallway and was headed straight for me. I threw my arms over my head, bolted down the hallway, slammed the lobby door behind me. Safe. "There's a bat out there," my shaky voice eeked out as I pressed myself against the door (as if the bat could push it open so that it could come and get me).

Amanda looked at me with distain and pushed me out of the way to go investigate. Ten seconds later a piercing scream resonated from the hallway and she flashed back into the room. "There's a bat out there," she exclaimed. "I told you," clinging to her as if we were watching slasher flick. Merrell stood up, "This is a job for a man. I'll be back." He strolled down the hallway, glancing over his shoulder to size up the competition. Amanda and I found a safe haven in the office, curled up on the desktop with our faces pressed up against the sliding glass ready to watch what was about to unfold. Merrell returned from his room with a pillow case and a hockey stick, gameface on.

Slowly he walked up to the bat, now perched on the neon light on the ceiling, and raised the hockey stick, ready to strike. The bat flapped his wings; Merrell kept it together while Amanda and I collectively cringed. He swung the stick, but the bat would have none of it and flew right passed his head. He screamed so high that only dogs could hear him and ran down the hallway to safety. This went on for twenty minutes; Amanda and I still engrossed in the action. Merrell eventually grew tired and sent for reinforcements. Aldon came out of his apartment with a baseball bat and a second pillowcase, ready to exterminate. The boys decided to turn off the lights so that the bat couldn't see them. I found this funny as bats are blind. In the darkness we heard frightened screams. Finally, Merrell and Aldon had the visitor cornered and were about to swoop it into the pillowcase when Aldon exclaimed, "It touched me, that's so gross, it touched me!" He shook his whole body in disgust and dropped the pillowcase releasing the creature.

Just then, Ashley, Aldon's six-months pregnant wife came hurriedly back from her walk as could hear her husband screaming from two blocks away. "What on earth is going on," she inquired. Amanda and I opened the glass window just wide enough to squeeze our faces through. "There's a bat," we said. "Oh, okay." Ashley went into her apartment and a few seconds later came out with a collapsed cardboard box. She looked at her husband cowering in corner, looked up at the bat, and then down at her husband. Without a word, Ashley raised the cardboard and slammed it against the bat. The only sound was a thud as the bat hit the ground, now struggling to fly away as he flapped his broken wings. She scooped up the bat and catapulted it out the front door to fend for itself in the wilds of the parking lot. "Gone." She went back into her home and closed the door. Merrell and Aldon still stood there in the corner shaking.