08 January 2011

Words Cannot Describe.

I have no idea how to even begin to describe what just happened to me.

I wish that I could have been taking notes throughout the last 45 minutes, but I think that would have been socially inappropriate, and in all fairness, there was so much blogging material that even though I will probably only remember, and communicate 10% of this experience, it will be more than enough to provide for a very long blog-entry.

This is actually the perfect way to return to the blog after a month-plus hiatus. I know some of you have said things like "You just have so many funny things to write about" and it is implied that the reason for that is the fact that I live in Oxford, which--let's be realistic--is a 'funny' place with weird archaic traditions and some interesting people. And I have always thought that isn't true, but today that thought was confirmed.

What I am about to describe is hands-down the most unbelievable thing that has happened to me in the past two years and it happened in the good-ole US of A.

I don't even know where to start, so I am just going to launch in. Buckle your seat-belts.

So, I am currently attending a research methods conference at the University of Arizona in Tucson. And this morning, after the first session had ended I came to a coffee/art shop where I could get my new favorite rasperry mocha. As I am standing in line, I hear somebody behind me say/shout "Hey, lady!" (And you should know that it wasn't the "Hey....lady"-I-am-trying-to-get-your-attention version, or the "Hey, lady?"-I-have-a-question-for-you version. It was the "Hey-I-am-using-lady-like-it-is-your-name-and-we-know-each-other-well" version.)

And to confirm, my analysis of the 'version' of "hey lady" that was being used, it was followed by "I know you right?" (Ok....so this reveals that it was context rather than just some great insight or inference into what was meant by "hey lady" that led me to my previous conclusion.)

I responded with...."Um....I am actually just in town for a few days. So no?"

To which she said "Red-headed-lady, don't I know you?" and "What are you in town for?"

Me: "A methods conference." (Don't worry, I won't give you the transcript for the whole conversation...I just have to give you the feel).

Her: "What kind of methods? Educate me."

Me: "Um...statistical methods."

Her: "Oh yeah? What kind, can you explain it more than that?"

Me: "Um....(mumble, mumble) just statistics that you would use with case studies. I don't really understand it well enough to explain it more than that." (Implied meaning--I don't want to talk about this.)

Her: "Oh. So, like, what kind of case studies do you do?"

Me: "I am looking at local education politics."

Her: "OH MY GOSH. **** (insert word of choice here) YEAH.....(to the guy at the register) Let me buy this pretty ladies coffee."

(Translation: I am going to buy your coffee. Then, you will be forced to be polite and talk with me for an indefinite period of time.)

At this point, I try to pay for my own coffee (I am cheap, but I am pretty sure that I will pay a high price for not paying for my own coffee. I am right on some level.) to no avail.

From here, I can't really explain exactly the way the conversation unfolded because the conversation was ALL OVER THE PLACE (and when I say conversation I mean monologue to which I contributed a lot of nodding and polite laughing and questions.). I have never experienced such an unfiltered conversation. Here are the high-points:

I was called "pretty lady" a number of times. This made me kind of uncomfortable.

Speaking of uncomfortable, we 'ting-tinged' (her word-- I would call it 'cheers') our glasses, but had to do it 'Italian-style' (because she has family in Italy, and Mexico, and...who knows where-else), which means that you have to make eye-contact--or else it is bad luck. I thanked her for buying my coffee (this was about five minutes after she had paid for it), but she had forgotten that she paid for it. While we are on the subject of luck, I think she is an authority on these things. For starters, when I told her 'good luck' at getting a position at a bi-lingual school (it seemed like a nice thing to say as a way to try to exit the conversation....rookie mistake), she told me that she didn't need luck because this was a long-time in the making. (I tend to disagree since she doesn't have a teaching certificate....details.) Furthermore, she's a healer (and a masseuse--I was supposed to refer my friends to her. So if anybody needs a masseuse, I'll get her card--which she is printing today. I saw the design, if you're interested). And she knew she was going to meet me today. (She also thought that she already 'knew' me, so I don't know if that calls those premonitions into question at all....but I'll take her word for it.)

In the middle of a sentence about getting a job at the bi-lingual school, she noticed my earrings. She like them and asked to see them. I moved my hair out of the way which allowed her to confirm that she had similar ones. She asked if they were metal. I said I think they were just plastic, but that I am sure they are pretty similar. She asked to see them again. I moved my hair. She asked for me to take one out. I did. (Yes, I don't know why I just went along with this, but I really didn't know what to do, or what my choices were at this point.) She confirmed that hers were different and fisted the earring. At this point, I was pretty sure that I would never get it back and would be leaving the coffee shop with only one earring.

She talked about something else for a little bit....I think how she doesn't live in Tucson but wants to move there (after she gets out of the work she is doing in Los Angeles....and San Diego...and the community college she attends in a third city)...

And then we were back to earrings. She told me that she had a similar pair that were metal that would look really good on me (I can imagine that this was pretty easy to picture since they were almost exactly like the ones that I ACTUALLY had on.) I said that was really ok. She said that she really wanted me to have them. I just said ok. At this point, I was fairly confident that she would forget about it.

And the conversation went on. Basically, all it took was a new word to launch a rabbit trail. A woman on the cover of TIME who was from Burma launched a short monologue about "I should move to Burma. No, I should live in Thailand first...." I was just an observer who wished she had a notepad.

And I was lost (slash trapped) in this conversation for about 25 minutes (that seemed like years). Other highlights include:

  • A two minute discussion about tattoos. Her mom hates them. She is not sure how she feels about them. But she needs to get a few more. (No, I did not explore the relationship between those statements.) She has a 'mom' tattoo. It doesn't exactly say 'mom'. But she got it in Tucson. Her mom asked where. She wouldn't tell her. Her mom basically asked "Who defiled your body?" So she knew better than to answer that question. Then she asked if I wanted to see it? I froze. Thankfully, it was apparently on her ankle (she started to take off her boots). I asked where she was from (for the fourth time, but we still hadn't quite finished that conversation).
  • When she found out that I was a student in England, at Oxford, she said that she knew somebody who attended the really good research school near Oxford. (Huh. I didn't pursue that further.) She also talked about how bad the food is there--aside from fish and chips. Then she said she should start a pastry shop there. So much revelation in this short conversation.
  • She will never forget my name because she has a cousin named Lindsay. We don't look alike, but it would still help her remember because I am "cute" and her cousin is "crazy"--not the good kind of crazy, but ACTUALLY crazy (I believe her). I am not sure how this will help her remember, but I nodded.
  • A peer of mine from the research conference was sitting at a nearby table. I was talking to her while my 'new friend' used the restroom (yes, this would have been a good chance to run....but I felt like it would be rude.). When my 'new friend' came back, she asked my peer to explain what the conference was about. As an example of how the method could be used, my peer said that you could look at "Why some people use drugs" and look at things like family background, mental health, etc. My 'new friend' said that this seemed like a really good idea and that all those things made sense for why people would use drugs. I believed her.
Just think. I got ALL OF THIS and a free cup of raspberry mocha. I think that's what Michael Scott would call a win-win.

Blogging Break Over. Welcome Back.

I have a confession to make.

Over the past few weeks, I think I have been playing around with the idea of discontinuing the blog. I mean, as you loyal readers know all too well, I have a few favorite topics--like public transportation and fashion--that I have pretty much exhausted. British culture is a lot less novel than it used to be, and I recognize that I am saying a lot of the same things and I can imagine how boring this repetition must be to read. Simply put--I have hit an 'artistic rut'. I feel like I have run out of material.

On the other hand, maybe the problem is an abundance of material. The past couple of weeks--including a trip to Israel and my first Christmas away from home--have been completely overwhelming (not in a bad way but just as a statement of fact), and I don't know if I have processed any of those experiences enough to be able to boil them down to digestible anecdotes or punchlines. And...I sense that there might be a line that I don't want to cross in terms of publishing things for all the world to see (potentially--I recognize that my 'world' for this blog is in fact much, much smaller)--like my....interesting....experiences getting into and out of Israel.

So, to convert all of this to a formula.....(because I am at a research methods conference after all)

lack of inspiration + overwhelming amount of complicated experiences to draw from= no blogging

But, the good--or bad, I am not sure--news, is that the blogging break is over.