I’ve had an interesting day, and I’m trying to figure out a way to fit words around the experiences so that you can appreciate what’s been happening. I’m not sure I’ll succeed, but stick with me for a bit and see how I do.
I’m very often astounded by how vastly different the world is from inside my head. I go through my life thinking certain things and believing certain things and vary rarely do I stop to consider that my perception could be entirely a figment of my own creation. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing – we’ll get to that in a minute – but it’s almost always startling.
This afternoon, for example, I encountered a man, over the citrus section in the produce department, whom I’ve not seen in about 17 years. He was chatting with the man who was restocking the other side of the table, looked up at me and said “CHILI!!” Honestly, it took me a few beats to remember who he was; I made the connection that he was someone I liked once upon a time, that all our encounters were friendly and pleasant, but I had to work to come up with his name.
Back in the early nineties, I worked as the only customer service representative at a tiny branch office of a bank on an intersection of what turned out to be a ridiculously dangerous road. The window next to my desk looked out on that intersection, and mine was the first call in to the 911 number to report accidents. As a result of all those accidents (and yes, there were that many), and on top of monthly alarm testing, occasional false alarms and an annual commitment to the Toys for Tots program, I got to spend a lot of time talking to our local dispatch and getting chummy with members of the police and fire departments who responded to the accidents.
Dana was the point man on our town’s Toys for Tots program, and is a world-class flirt. Truth be told, I was a little enamored of him those seventeen years ago; charming, handsome, almost too nice – when he’s turned on the charm, he has a way about him that makes a person feel as though no one else in the world exists.
I had absolutely no idea that I was even a blip on his radar. My assumption was that he was just a good flirt; he’d never remember me and why should he? I was a Toys for Tots contact person that he only saw once a year.
Yet the fact of the matter is that he DID remember me. He remembered my name, he remembered Mr. Chili’s name (even though we were only dating when I first met Dana). He remembered that I was leaving the bank to study English and asked how that worked out for me. He asked about my family and my home and was genuinely interested in how the last 16 years have been for me. We talked in the grocery store aisles for a good twenty minutes – far longer than I intended to stay in the market – and it was really amazing to me that this man would remember me from so long ago.
I see myself as mostly unremarkable and practically invisible. From today’s encounter, it would seem that is a mistaken impression.
Later this afternoon, I went back to TCC to fax some documents. As I was loading up the fax machine behind the Goddess’s desk, I heard the dean say “I’m leaving this for Chili; this is something she should have,” (she didn’t notice me behind the desk – my back was turned). The thing she thought I should have was an article about this lawsuit, in which a student is suing his college after he was attacked in a gay-bashing incident. His contention (and I think he’s right) is that the college had a responsibility to ensure that all its students had a safe learning environment, and that the college failed to promote a “social agenda of tolerance” that resulted in his attack.
It thrilled me that the dean printed out this article for me. While I make a lot of noise around here about being an outspoken advocate, I do not make a spectacle of myself in my workplace. Yes, I started the GSA and yes, I have a bulletin board from which I highlight social justice issues, but I’ve never organized a rally or spoken publicly at the school about my views. I make a point of making sure that people know my position, and I make a point of making sure people know I’m a safe place on campus, but I try to do that in a way that is matter-of-fact and quiet and individual. I love that I am someone that people think of when they see things like this article. I love that I seem to be the dean’s go-to person for social justice issues on campus.
It can be a strange and sometimes troubling thing to see oneself through another’s eyes. While today’s experiences haven’t been at all bad, they have shaken me a little bit out of my own view of myself, and I’m spending time trying to readjust my focus to take in the information that others have given me.