I don't know where to begin - so I'll start with the first unusual interaction I had.
It was Tuesday morning, in the conference of 1,400 people. I sat myself next to an elderly man and was polite, striking up the typical conversation. I wanted to get a good seat, so I got there early and now I see why my seat was good, it actually turned out to be fan-tas-tic!
The gentleman next to me, we'll call Artie, was familiar with Huntsville, as he graduated from A&M about 50 years ago. He asked about my personal life - married? kids? divorced? I didn't give him too much information, because really, what's the point. Well, he made a point of that, telling me over and over that I wasn't telling him everything - I was being too closed off to his questions.
The mental dialog went like this, "Really. Fucker, really? You really want me to delve into my psychologial problems and tell you why I am not in a relationship? You want me to air my dirty laundry right here in the middle of the Sheraton NY Towers' Ballroom while I'm waiting for Mayor BLOOMBERG to speak... Really?"
He told me about his marriage - celebrating 53 years next month...blah blah blah.
Mayor Bloomberg began; I was mesmerized. The mayor of the largest city in the world, right there, looking at me - in the eyes. He talked about education reform and ending poverty...it's a marathon he said! A marathon. Artie leans over and goes, "Huntsville, I'd like to come there and get you across the finish line." He then looked me up and down.
Internal monologue: Oh hell what? Remember what he said - this is good material. I mean good material. A man in his 70s representing the YMCA from New Orleans coming on to me while the powerful mayor is speaking.
I turned away from him and chuckled. At the end of the session, I got up and left that table.
The rest of the interactions were normal. Until the flight from LGA to Pittsburgh.
As I settled into my seat, the bald man next to me greeted me with a friendly hello. Perhaps a little too friendly? He had three hoop earrings in each ear and deeply stained yellow teeth. At this point, I'm not really sure what I did to allow him to open up to me - but here's what I learned about him:
1. He's been living in the woods of Vermont (Burlington) for the last 20 years.
2. He has some daughters, but I don't think any of them were biological
3. He doesn't watch the news
4. He hated President Bush
5. He's vocal about said hatred
6. He believes in privacy to the full extent - so much so, that when I opened up my laptop and the picture of Ethan appeared, he curled into a ball and looked at the "wall"
7. He used alcohol wipes every time he coughed and offered me some, just in case
8. He was flying for the first time in nearly two decades to go to a Buddhist retreat. He'd been online talking Buddhism and met someone. They were meeting in Pittsburgh to go to the retreat. His new friend was incredibly intelligent - a 5'7" Italian who studies disease patterns in homosexual and transgenders.
9. His new friend is a man and so not only was he taking on a new religion on this trip, this was to be his first homosexual relationship.
10. But he was excited about it - because in his younger years he looked like a girl.
11. If you ask me, that's a lot to take on during a Buddhist retreat.
That's a lot to discuss in a 50-minute plane ride. But we discussed that and more.
As I write this, I now see that I really do attract the weird-os. Maybe I'm too welcoming, allowing people to be too open. Maybe I'm just too boring. Or maybe I understand that some things just really shouldn't be talked about with complete strangers - whether or not you'll see them again. Because one day, it's all gonna end up on Facebook, talked about in post-meeting meetings, and written up for someone's memoirs. And there are just some things I have done, experienced, etc. that I know I'd rather not see in print. :)
Those secrets will go to the grave with me. Poor strangers, they'll never be so lucky.