Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What do you do?

Initech seems far away now. It’s nearly capable of being romanticized. It seems a long time ago, but that is just the experience fattening that silly goose, time. The jarred nerves from corporate life are rebuilding. Gradually that little kid is starting to show up a little more often. I notice small changes in me. Changes from being further removed from the captains of modern business or changes from being closer to something else, I don’t know. And, yet, as far as I may be from making pushpin designs in the soft fabric walls of a cubicle, it returns to me each day, an undeniable piece of my personal history.

People love to ask questions and want lovable answers. They want to know, it helps them. Helps them identify. Helps them talk. Talk helps them feel there somehow, alive somehow. ‘What do you do?’ They love the ring, the tone, the sound, the rhythm of the words as they bubble out of their mouths, ‘What do you do?

What do I do when? Now? Then? Next? I want to ignore the question. Pretend I never heard it. Act like I have no intention of answering. It means nothing, really, what do I do? But it’s important for one reason or another and I know I will answer. I want to say ‘I’m an escort.’, ‘I’m a hand model.’, ‘I work for the witness protection program as a location scout.’, ‘I’m in the witness protection program’. But these are not the truths and in my own pursuit of the truth or something that feels a little honest, I am compelled to give the straight answer. And I am lost for words.

How do you say I did all these things and each one has a title but I never really was any one of those things and I really don’t do any of that anymore I hope? How do you give them enough so that the innocuous conversation starter what do you do doesn’t turn to seed-pulp in an instant. Some words have bad effects; corporate, technology, information technology, sales, education programs, nausea, glaze-over, All the words have their shortcomings, so I tell them honestly of my jack of all trade nature with the best title I can muster. ‘I’m the Prime Minister of the United States living in exile in Canada.’

They chuckle. They want to talk politics. I refuse. They forget about what I do because for now, I make funny. They want to talk politics – politics are funny. I refuse. They want to talk about the US and Americans and dirty little things. I refuse. They remember and ask ‘What do you do?

Are we not the culmination of our experiences? Our lives are shaped each day by what we do, our actions. Once they occur they become what we’ve done. We hand people things and ring them up at cash registers. We make fittings that will be examined by experts. We write emails that make something happen which causes a little more or a little less stress. We screw up, we sit in meetings, we work weekends, we show up late, we win awards. Things we’ve done. In polite conversation they turn to what we do. But in polite conversation we don’t want to know what someone has done. We don’t want to know the details of a TPS report. We want to have some way to move the conversation along, share something interesting for a change. We want to meet escorts and drug dealers and witness protection program scouts and presidents and kings and prime ministers.

What do I do? For now, I hope. I hope for sun and more rain to cool it off. I hope to never experience dehydration again. I hope my flip-flops don’t blow out. I hope if my flip flops do blow out I wont hum Margaritaville while I hobble over the hill. I hope to meet more interesting people who after a day we will hug and be comfortable with our shared honesty. I hope for another text message to make me feel like the luckiest person alive. I hope someday the notes and the watching will come together into something interesting that helps someone making pushpin designs in a cubicle somewhere live a slightly better or happier or sillier life. That’s what I do. I hope.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

thoughts from a tiny island

On this tiny dive island in the Gulf of Thailand, motorbikes race up and down the streets of the main town. Other than that, there is no sign of hurry. Expats control the way and their eyes watch with detachment the silly antics of the newly arrived tourists. They are lucky, some might remember, that even though they are tourists, they are mostly here to dive. Diving tourists are more sensitive to the reefs both under water and those on land. Unlike many locations not far from here, there are no busloads of frantics anxious to rush by art and edifice, pausing only to snap a photo or buy a trinket. They are lucky, but that does not minimize their slightly superior pose. It exists everywhere, I suppose; dominant coffee house buzzards in Greenwich Village, self-righteous non-smokers on the patios of La Jolla, style commanders draining perfect martinis in the air conditioned safety of South Beach. And here, amidst simple bungalows dotting palm covered cliffs, it is hard to take it too far or too seriously. It is beautiful and easy and friendly. It’s sad to think that in ten years it may be prostituted to Burger Kink and Starbucks. The Hyatt’s will bring their exclusivity and profit margins will be analyzed against other resorts and quality control will be enforced by policies dreamt up in an industrial park in Horsham, Pennsylvania.
I am too new to say how the Thai’s fit in here. Perhaps it is only to provide an example of how to smile and let it all happen, no matter what it is. It would take a few months, maybe a year, maybe a lifetime to peel back the layers to see how the pieces connect. There is no purpose in that, though. Better to come, enjoy, take a little, give a little, and hope someone in my footsteps may take an afternoon to listen to the breeze or watch the ballet of butterflies in a slightly imperfect garden while waiting for the rain to cool off this dot of sand.