Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

16 January 2011

Our Stories

For a couple of years I’ve been paying for a mostly-empty storage shed, which is kind of silly since I have a garage now...and have had one for over a year. I’d brought the motorcycles over to the house pretty quickly, but I’d left a bunch of, let’s face it, junk: An old, pre-DOS “portable computer” the size of a suitcase (CPM operating system); three dead laptop computers; three electronic musical keyboards I cannot play; camping equipment; clothes I’ll never wear; hundreds of aviation magazines...you know, the typical crap that we accumulate that we just never get rid of for some reason.

So recently my friend Gene and I went and collected all of the rest of the, um, stuff. A lot of it got thrown out, but the rest of it now resides in my garage, waiting patiently to be sorted and repositioned to the dump or saved and elevated to the attic – which I’ll get to, I swear! Don’t rush me.

After we were done I went to the office to tell them I was leaving. In place of the youngish ex-Navy guy who runs the place was a woman – a white-haired, older woman who might have been his mother or possibly grandmother – almost as old as my own mother. Pushing 80 in any event. She was healthily plump and she had this happy, open face and these wonderful, sparkling eyes. I'm a sucker for people with interesting eyes. So instead of just saying, “Hey gram’, cancel unit #380, I’m outta here,” I just had to sit down and chat. I told her I’d moved into a house with a garage and didn’t need the shed anymore.

“Oh, I’m getting ready to move too,”
she said excitedly. And I thought to myself, “...to a nursing home?” but I did not say that. I said, "Moving?"

Turns out she used to live down the coast in Destin, but moved to Pensacola a couple of years ago. First she lived west of town, out on Escambia Bay. But she didn’t like that so she moved into town proper. But now she was moving again, back to Destin, to a little house right next door to her church, and right close by the bed-and-breakfast that her daughter owns. Rather than being depressed, she seemed surprisingly enthusiastic and optimistic about the prospect of packing up and moving again (something I detest). Then she told me about her church and after that, her daughter’s B&B.

As she rambled on, I glanced over at Gene. He was standing, staring out one of the windows of the office. And even though he had his back to us I could tell he was rolling his eyes impatiently.

Me, I love talking to people. Everyone has a story to tell. It usually does not take much prodding to get people to tell it. You just have to ask, and appear to be interested in what they have to say – something you cannot fake. And while these stories are not always fascinating, not always exciting, sometimes they are very. And in any case, they are fascinating and exciting to the speaker. To him or her, it is the most important story in the world. And so it is to me too.

After a while we drove away from the storage shed place and the old woman with the sparkling eyes and happy face. “You always do that,” Gene said, rather testily. “You always get people talking.” Typically he does not engage people in conversation. He’s just not a talker.

I laughed. It wasn’t like we had anything else pressing to do just then. What was the harm in spending five or ten minutes listening to someone talk about their life? (Okay, fifteen minutes, so sue me.) Maybe it was the only real conversation the woman had that day. Hey, she sits in that little office and the few people who do drive in and out probably don’t stop to chat. In all the time I’ve had that shed, I may have stopped in once in addition to the time I rented it.

It seems that nowadays we scurry around, rushing from place to place, always in a hurry, with little time to just...talk...to one another. No time. We’d rather phone or text or IM or leave a message on Facebook.

Connecting electronically is not really connecting at all. Personally, I love interactions with real people, however brief or fleeting.

You could go through life without ever touching people in a meaningful way, but it would be a lonely, dismal existence. So talk to people! Let them know that their story is important...that they are important. Why? Because most people are interesting and deserve to be heard. Not only that, but someday, maybe someone will be interested in hearing your story. And you know what? You deserve to tell it too. If I'm around, you can tell it to me.


Bob said...

And so many people today walk around with plugs in their ears (iPods), oblivious to the world and people around them. They're missing so much.

God created us to be social beings, to communicate with each other. Your conversation with this lady did both of you good. And don't sell yourself short -- your ability to communicate and entice others to communicate back? Well, that's a gift.

Debby said...

I'm a blabber. I think that maybe sometimes I blab too much, but you know? People are really very interesting.

Bob Barbanes said...

Bob, you bring up an important point: We learn so much from listening to others. At least I do. Our lives are not about "me, me, me," but rather, "us, us, us." You're right, we are social beings - or should be.

I did get something out of that conversation with the woman at the storage shed: Next time I ride my motorcycle down the coast, I'll stop in at that B&B and talk to the woman who runs it about her wonderful mother. I look forward to that.

And Debby, I have no doubt that you and I would get along just great. The only problem would be both of us trying to get a word in edgewise. When I want to be, I am quite a blabber too ;)

Redlefty said...

Gotta admit, I'm not a talker. Or even a listener. I'd like to be, and have worked to improve at it, but am just not wired that way!

gilkeyjoe said...

You know Bob, you are so right. No matter what their background is, I always find people fascinating. Everyone is on a journey and hearing them tell it in their own words enthralls me. I must mention that this is in stark contrast to my own father, who like me, enjoys people's company, but only on his own terms.
My father resides in a retirement home, not a nursing or even an assisted living home. Only criteria to live there is be over 55 and have the cash to pay the outrageous monthly rent, which he really can't afford but all things considered, is the best situation for him. Anyway, the residents are mostly elderly women and the men are the spouses of...you guessed it...elderly women. At last count, there are about three or four single elderly men, of which my father is one. Well, these gentlemen prefer to not mingle with the gold-digging, horned up single women so they eat their meals at their own table. The home serves three meals a day with the mid-day meal, "dinner," being the big meal of the day. Because these people generally have a pretty light schedule day to day, this mid-day meal takes a minimum of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The evening "supper" is a lighter fare lasting about an hour to 1 1/2 hours. My father has been in this retirement home for 3 years and over this time only one of the original 3 "dining companions," (as he refers to them), remain. One was had to move to assisted living the other went on to meet his maker. As one leaves another single gentleman takes their place. The interesting, if not disturbing point of all this is that my father sits with these same gentlemen every single day for a combined time of at least 3 hours but yet he knows absolutely nothing about them. When I ask what so and so retired from, I get the response, "I don't know." Or where is Mr. So and So from, "Gosh, I don't know." Keep in mind, I met these gentlemen when I first moved my father there and in the few minutes I conversed with them, I knew more about their history then my father did after countless hours dining with them. This made me realize a couple of different things. Either my father is ego-centric to the point that if he's not interested in you, he doesn't care anything about your journey. Or you reach an age, (my father's 82), that you just don't care, period.

Bob Barbanes said...

Joe, knowing you, I have no doubt that you and those old guys had a grand old time- and they were probably very happy to share their story with you - at least as happy as you were to hear it.

It must be an odd dynamic at that place your father is in. The fact that those guys don't talk about themselves much is telling. They probably do talk a lot - about politics and stuff - but as you suggested, they probably don't care much about the past: their own or anyone else's.