Friday, May 11, 2007

Seemingly Random Associations

Every morning I would see a woman on the side of the road waiting for a bus. I’d just drive by, she’d be there, and I’d keep on driving. It was always the same. I had no interaction with her or connection to her. She was just a woman on the side of the road waiting for a bus. She appeared to be comfortable. By that I mean she seemed by all visible criteria (clothes, skin, hair, posture, body language etc.) to be OK with herself, and with life. As if life had been pretty good to her. Just an observation, but nevertheless it is the impression I’ve had of her. The only thing that has seemed a little odd is that she was waiting for a bus. Seemed like I should have been seeing her every morning behind the wheel of a new Lexus, a Volvo or a BMW. I entertained the idea that she could be, but was doing her part for energy conservation and the environment. What do I know?

The woman had a relaxed air about her that indicated she might be enjoying this alone time. Just a little time by herself. No demands on her, or expectations of her. Just waiting for a bus.

One day, after a few months, I noticed another woman in the same place waiting for the same bus. Now there were two of them. They stood apart. This new arrival left an entirely different impression with me. She seemed like someone you would expect to see waiting on the side of the road for a bus. She seemed to be a bit beaten down by life, as if life had had its way with her. She had a saggy posture, kind of unkempt hair and clothes, weathered skin, and bags under her eyes that made it appear as if a lot of sleep had eluded her over the years. It did not seem like her and life were very compatible partners.

One woman was black. The other was white. Which was which is really of no significance here, only that one was black and the other was white. They were both about the same age. For the next several weeks I noticed they continued to stand apart. I never saw them acknowledge one another. I can’t say they didn’t, I just never witnessed it. And their body posture was quite guarded, protective, anxious.

But I eventually began to notice a softening in that posture, a lessening of the distance between them and an occasional glance, an acknowledgement of one another. It made me smile. How could it not? As the weeks moved on I watched a relationship develop. I could only watch it briefly in my moments driving by, but it was like a flower blooming in the desert. In time they were laughing, touching each other as part of their mutual expression, standing shoulder to shoulder or face to face. The woman with the saggy posture was standing taller now, and looking younger. The woman who had initially appeared to be comfortable, then guarded, was now comfortable again, but even more so. There was now an element of happiness to her comfort. This had been an amazing transformation for me to see. And it’s something I think about quite often. I think of it in terms of other seemingly random encounters, how they come about, and what we do with them. What I do with them. It leaves me wondering if there really is any such thing as a random encounter. In the isolated context of these two women it does not seem like it was random at all, but rather a deliberate linking of two individuals to see what each of them would do with the other.

Our lives are filled with these associations, at work, at play, and in the marketplace. We choose daily what to do with them. And what we will allow them to become.

When I drove by this morning the women were gone. I’m thinking they began to drive together. Together. Not collectively alone.
I like the thought of that.