Posts Tagged ‘social’

All Hallows

31 October 2011

Dear J-

Well, this is it: the last day of October and of course the night to go trick-or-treating. I woke up late this morning, whether because of oversnoozing or overexertion yesterday with the little saws and punches that are the pumpkin carver’s tools. I’m starting to realize just how little physical activity I actually get in the course of a typical day, and it’s fairly sobering; at least by driving today, I reason, I’ll get home a litle earlier and we’ll be able to prepare for tonight a little better, right? It’s a curious mix of trepidation and anticipation I have tonight as our plans are to meet up and go to a strange enighborhood so that figgy can go trick-or-treating with some of her classmates.

By now we’ve all been to enough birthday parties and activities to be able to gauge how the kids will be and how they’ll react tonight; I have some questions about how Calcifer will take the later-than-usual night but I think about how our social life has in short order come to revolve around this core group of friends. For me it feels like a constant balancing act: is my natural tendency towards taciturn shyness offset by the excuse I have hiding behind a camera? Should I instead be making more of an effort to speak or is that the role I’m in now? Is there that much that we should know about each other or is the casual nature of facebook and occasional encounters at school sufficient? So many questions, so much doubt every time we meet.

I’m looking forward to it as they’ve promised that last year there were a ton of decorations and it’s an easy couple of blocks. No pressure, just a mission in to extract candy from a strange neighborhood and we’re done. I can dig it. And it gets us out of the house for the evening though I wonder if we should go to the mall like the last couple of years too, even though there’s no particular inclination or tradition to hold up. We have good kids and it’s fun to have them head out together in a little mob, even if they seem to be inseparable we all know that entering kindergarten next year will likely scatter their social group to the winds, so it’s maybe the first and last time with this particular social network.



The Zone

5 October 2010

Dear J-

When I was in Alabama a few months ago, after work one day I went on a little drive — actually, I followed the GPS to where it indicated green spaces every night that I could, one of those days ditching the rest of my team so I could drive up into the mountains (these were the southern foothills of the Appalachians). I can’t explain why even now — I’d made those plans earlier the night before and then to hear that the rest of the guys wanted to go out for steaks again made me scramble for a good-enough excuse to duck out. Part of it was curiosity about East Coast mountains: how big and could I feel how much cooler it was?*

Being such a horrible recluse is partly grounded in fear of rejection, I know: if you never go out, you never have to deal with the social niceties of small talk, pleeztameetcha and howayadoin, goodthanks andyew? One of my wise J- friends told me about how painfully shy he was in Mexico; upon moving to the States he decided that the worst that would happen would be someone saying no. He’s a manager now and on the fast track upwards. It’s not just taking risks, it’s pushing the boundaries every day toward where you want to be, not staying comfortable where you are.

The small scale of our Saturdays — the last couple of weeks we’ve fallen into a routine, a leittle light cleaning and then the library, onwards to Target — is a comfortable cycle. Growing isn’t about comfort, though; I’m glad that figgy has friends inviting her to parties outside of school, though when she’s fifteen I’m sure it will be a different story. Right now she’s focused on other people and what we should do together: it’s paying off, as one lady at the library stopped me and declared that I should “Give her anything she wants, she’s adorable.” Life is full of lessons you don’t expect.



* How big? Not very, but then again they were just foothills.
How cool? Not at all. Let’s just say that compared to the Rockies, there were no instances of the clouds kissing the ground.

Social Network

24 September 2010

Dear J-

I’m waiting for the bus, which used to be an opportunity for some down time and reflective thoughts. Given the way this day’s projected to run, though, I’m taking the chance to do a little writing. It used to be that the bus was a social experience but our lives are littered with devices that allow us to sidle off into our own little worlds. My last bus trip all I did was watch the other passengers; the younger the rider, the faster they whipped that DS out in an almost desperate attempt to stave off boredom.

It’s not like my generation was any better, grabbing a Walkman for those long bus trips, but even then that was a social experience. For me I’d make sure to sit next to someone I liked and offer to share my cool music tastes*, otherwise there was the chance at conversation and learning about people. Right around the time I started riding the Boston MBTA was when I stopped talking to people on buses — that particular incident is traceable to the guy sitting next to me who advocated carpet-bombing China.

I’m still continually amazed by how many people I recognize by sight here at the plant and not just because someone’s pointed them out to me at one point or another. For the most part I’ve worked with them on some little thing or another; it doesn’t take a social butterfly to meet people after all, just a willingness to hold out a hand once in a while and ask how you can help.


* As so many have pointed out it’s still a wonder I’m married at all.

Wealth of Ways

10 August 2010

Dear J-

So yesterday I get back to the hotel and it suddenly occurs to me that the last thing I want to do is hang out with those guys: there’s nothing wrong with them, and they’re great fun to be around during an audit (the very word that strikes fear into the hearts of millions), but I’d been together with them for the last ten hours and I was done. After my obligatory underwear time (pants off, alone — there’s so much to recommend) I went to explore Anniston a bit. It’s Calhoun County, but the Oxford-Anniston Metro Area and, having seen what Oxford is like from my window, wanted to see what lay off the path in Anniston instead.

There was a sign that piqued my interest on the way home last night: “Historical Zinn Park” pointing west, so I dutifully followed and parked in the street bisecting the park. Did you ever hear the phrase “there’s no there THERE?” I tried to find some kind of historical marker, but the whole thing remains vaguely unremarkable for now — lawn, stairs, and disrepair in the ring of abandoned buildings forming its borders. It did suit my taste at the time, but only for a little bit: the wretched sense of decay made me think that I was the last person left in the world. So I end up wandering about a little more and hoping that I don’t get mugged (tourist, camera) instead.

We may be in for a couple of long, slogging days starting tomorrow. Whether or not the hours are shorter, or the scenery is different, work is still work. It has been, like the last audit trip I took, a fresh way of looking at the things I do — there are so many people who have to team up to get the parts you need. It makes me a little more humble as to what I can actually accomplish and more willing to speak up asking for help. Kublai Khan couldn’t be richer than me, you know?


Travel Time

8 August 2010

Dear J-

It turns out that I write best when in motion, so with nothing else palatable on the flight (as I’m not about to drag out my books and begin, horrors, studying) here I am. For some reason I always find airports immensely lonely places, even when you’re traveling with folks you know: you’re in a kind of geographical limbo, neither here nor there yet, and waiting for something, for the flight to be over, for the flight to depart, to get your bags, to get out of there, to get there, for the restroom to open up, for a space for your feet, to turn on your gadgets, for the seatbelt sign, to land, to taxi, to take off, to park, to pay, to check-in. But these are all solitary activities, and you end up having to wait a little longer.when it’s just you.

The flight attendants are going about their duties with typical steely-eyed efficiency, doling out food and drinks to the passengers and not really making any kind of human contact. The people you sit with are wrapped up (as am I, as though I wasn’t the biggest hypocritical fraud you could hope to meet) in their reading and gadgets as though they contained the secrets of life. Perhaps they do. Yet it’s hard to muster any real interest in strangers you might know for another few hours at the outside, and I’m sure that as hardened as some flyers are, the staff have seen it all by now. Better to stick with what you know, that space between your eyes and ears; you’ve trod those floorboards a thousand times already knowing you’ll have nothing but to entertain yourself. There are things I like to bring on a trip, but I wish I’d remembered cards right now — there’s something in the way that you mesh them together at a crisp ripple, feats of manual dexterity that keep your hands busy and your mind clean.

This paricular flight is equipped with individual headrest monitors: we’re not stuck watching the same programs, and seeing them all lit up and sending information down the way is entertainment on its own. We’ve transformed, so they say, into a society of browsers, where everyone knows a little about everything and, if not, we can look that stuff up on-line in moments. Anyone with a connection can find hard-core trivia that was hard-won in the past, gleaned from tireless (or expensive, or both) research into dusty shelves and obscure conclusions. But it’s both symptomatic and causal: the more we pursue our echo chambers of knowledge, the more we want to know, and so we keep spinning our electronic cocoons of silence throughout the air, punching tubes of silence between us all.


Experience Anxiety

19 December 2008

Dear J-

Is there a word for the social terror that overwhelms you at the slightest mention of a birthday party?  When I was roughly seven, any hint of impending festivities would set off natalphobia alarms in my head, to the point where I’d send my brother to face that party-hatted firing squad in my stead.  When do we decide that the outside world is a terrible place, full of suspicious strangers and folks whose only intention is to eat your brains, your delicious tender brains?  (I know, in the back of my head, that we were getting delicious cake instead but you never know what guests may be subjected to).

I don’t believe that we’re born wary; I watch figgy wave and flirt with folks, though, and it’s clear she has preferences:  not too comfortable with strange women, and not comfortable at ALL with the guy last Saturday who came up and shook her hand as she was strapped into the high chair.  She bore this last one gamely but at the extreme end of her range, scrunching into a corner of the chair.  Otherwise she’s amazingly resilient and confident; does she not know differently, or does she just not care at this point?

We mature at different rates, I guess; we learn abstractly and we learn through experience.  Birthday parties are usually filled with games, not the cannibalistic undead; but not all strangers are benign, either.  How does she learn now?  She watches with an alert keenness; she imitates, she understands simple spoken commands.  “Want to go out?” is met with her running off to fetch her socks from wherever she’s managed to fling them.  I’m torn between protection and permission; experience and exposure war with isolation and insulation, but doesn’t it just make it that much more tempting?


Half Hour

4 September 2008

Dear J-

One minor anniversary to note: I’ve managed to blather out at least one thing every day for the last year. We’ll see how long that lasts, but the last time I tried something like that, it lasted ten years (at some point it shifted from “how much longer can I keep doing this” to “it would sure be a shame to stop this now”) with the journal. It didn’t necessarily reach any literary heights, but I’m not an ambitious man, by any means.

The year’s slipped by quickly, too. If I guessed that it takes half an hour each day to jot down a few things, hat means roughly eight full days over the course of the year. I certainly consider it time well spent, as it kept me off of the TV for the most part, but of course there’s no real benefit to trading one couch-y activity for another. Now all’s I need is a laptop and wi-fi setup to allow for writing in front of the TV.

We connect to each other in different ways; sometimes I suspect that what drives me to write is sheer narcissism — ho ho, my life is interesting enough that someone else might want to read about it, even when I know I lead the real life of Walter Mitty, but it’s been amazing to pick up and read about folks in different countries on this magic window of a computer. And even more than that, learn how like we really are. Beyond the obvious similarities, there’s a lot of truth in my dad’s favorite saying that “Man is a social animal” — we share the same dreams and fears. And my life is amazing in how little I do end up having to think about it; the luxury of time is so easily taken for granted.