17 April 2010

Learning The Laws Of Their Languages

Today I did something I normally try not to do:  I went to the post office on a Saturday.  The line was about as long as I expected it to be and, after spending about fifteen minutes on it (actually a bit less than I expected), I was served by the rudest employee in the post office.  At least he was efficient.

As I stood on the queue, a man waited in front of me.  He was rather sexy, in an unshaven, rough-hewn, fatigues-and-field jacket sort of way.  He was also as fidgety as a kid waiting for a meal in a restaurant.  Everything, it seemed, annoyed him--especially customers who spent more than five seconds with a postal clerk.  In a way, I could understand his reactions:  After all, who wants to spend more time than is absolutely necessary to mail a package, especially on Saturday?  He seemed particularly exasperated when an older woman who was indecisive and didn't speak Queens English, much less The Queen's English and spent an inordinate amount of time at one of the windows, which held up those of us who were waiting on line.

He groaned and looked around him for sympathy.  "I don't believe this," he growled.

"Yeah.  Does she have anything better to do with her life?"

"Does she have a life?" he wondered.

Then, for the next few minutes, as the line snaked us toward the clerks' windows, he grumbled and let out sighs.  Finally, he said, "I'm sorry if I seem a little jumpy."

"Oh, that's quite all right," I nearly whispered, with a trace of a simper.

"But I'm not normally like this."  Somehow I knew that he didn't think I believed him.  Not that it mattered, really.  

"I've been really, really jumpy."

"We all have times like that," I tried to reassure him.

"Well, I've been like this for a month now, ever since I stopped smoking."

"Congratulations!  Whatever you're going through now will be worth it."

"I know," he said.  "I feel better already."

"And you'll feel even better...and save a bunch of money."

"Those are the reasons why I quit," he explained. "But it's really tough."

"Yes, people don't realize how addictive nicotine is," I assured him.

"Thank you for understanding."

"Oh, it's no problem.  I lived with someone who was withdrawing from nicotine, so I understand."

"You are very kind."

"No, just..."

"NEXT!"  The clerk called him to the window.  He mailed his package and left as I was walking up to the next available window.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him leaving; he waved to me.

Ever since I started my transition, I've had more and more encounters with strangers who revealed one thing or another to me, or who hugged me or cried on my shoulder.  I always wonder what they're seeing in me.  

I think that man knew that I found him attractive.  And the young woman who did my nails last week must have known that I was, shall we say, persuadable.  I'm certainly not upset that he talked to me or that she propped her head on my shoulder, any more than either of them seemed to mind the attention I was giving them.  But, even though I can "read" their intentions and desires, I still feel as if I'm learning how to act around people who share moments with me the way they did.  It seems that the rules for these encounters are somehow different from the ones that governed the interactions I used to have.  

Give me another fifty years and I'll figure it all out.