28 July 2011

What You Weren't Expecting, When And From Whom You Weren't Expecting It

Today, I went to a bank branch I occasionally use.  There, I saw Roger, one of the workers I hadn't seen in a while.  He just turned thirty, he told me, but he still gets carded in bars and clubs.  (I told him that had I met him on the street, I'd have thought he was seventeen or eighteen.)  And, he said, he's going back to school in the Fall.  "Teacher's College!," he announced with pride.

After doing one thing and another, he said, he's decided to become a teacher.  Then we got to talking about how the routes that get us to where we are in our lives are often circuitous, to say the least.  He got his undergraduate degree in film and got to do some small-scale production work--which, he accurately pointed out, is more than most people with film degrees work in their field.  Then, he did some writing, though not enough to pay the bills.  He continues to write, he says, but now he's doing more of his own creative work.  His job, while not enriching him financially (Ironic, isn't it, that he works in a bank?), at least gives him that luxury.

And, in another one of those unexpected turns we sometimes experience in our lives, it was his current job that led to his decision.  During a training session, he explained something to another employee.  His supervisor, who caught the exchange from the corner of his eye and ear, said, "You know, you'd be a really good teacher."

"That was my 'aha!' moment," Roger said.

I think he would be good at it, for he deals with people patiently and communicates well.  And, in my dealings with him, I have seen how he can come up with creative solutions to problems.  

Our exchange got me to thinking about how the most important realizations I've had in my life have come from whom, and in situations, I hadn't anticipated.  Of course, the biggest one of all came around this time ten years ago, when I pedaled into Saint Jean de Maurienne, France as people were going home from work.  When I stopped at a traffic light, I saw one of those people--a woman a few years older than I was and seemingly unexceptional--and realized that I had to move through the world as she did.

And, years before that, there was a woman with whom I'd become friendly and whom I thought I'd want to date.  Because she was very attractive, she could have had (and, actually, did have) and number of men.  Still, her rejection surprised me.  "I like you a lot," she said.

"All right.  What don't you like about me."

She hesitated.  "Give it to me straight," I said.  "I'd really like to know."  I would have thought it had to do with my looks or relative poverty; she had dated surgeons and airline pilots, back when the latter job still paid well and had some prestige.  I didn't expect her to admit those things, and I thought she might talk about how our priorities were different, or some such thing.  

However, what she said was more incisive, and therefore more surprising:  "I think you're a wonderful person.  But I want to be a man.  You're manly--on the surface.  But underneath it all, you're a woman."

"W-what do you mean?" 

"To you, everything is about emotions and refinement.  That's how you see the world--even when you're working out, playing sports, and doing the 'guy' stuff."

I couldn't protest, cry, lash out, thank her--I couldn't, and didn't, respond at all.   I sat, in stunned silence, in the booth of the coffee shop where we'd met.  In fact, I don't remember how we parted:  Did she simply leave?  Did we argue; did either of us say "goodbye?"  All I know is that I never saw her again.  

What would she think if she saw me now?  What would that woman in Saint Jean de Maurienne think if she realized what happened the one and only time I saw her?  And what will Roger's supervisor think if they should meet again after Roger has been teaching for a few years?

1 comment:

Miss Kitty said...

WOW. This post is so powerful...the title is SO spot-on.

You're right: it's weird how we sometimes get what we don't expect when/from whom we least expect it. The two women you mention--one with whom you talked at length, and the other whom you saw from afar--handed you information that you really, really needed, even if you didn't know right then that you needed to know it.

God bless your friend for deciding to become a teacher. The de-professionalization of the field leaves me more and more broken-hearted all the time, but I feel good knowing that I do get through to a few students here and there.