Friday, October 29, 2010

An Introduction

I almost made it to 33rd before I realized that I had forgotten my security card.

Rummaging through the pockets of my bag I discovered that I had also lost my UTA pass, and there was nothing for it: I had to go back four stations, get in my car, then drive back home. As the train slowed to a stop at the Millcreek Station I stood, exited, and called my boss to say that I would be late. He was understanding, mentioned that there really wasn't any work for me to do that day, and offered the option of not bothering to come in at all. Truth of the matter is, I'm just an intern; they've been getting by without my help for years.

Still, there were a few things I could do at the office; besides, I needed to go in to the travel department and get a replacement for my lost UTA pass.

A couple of hours later I was back on the train and headed into downtown Salt Lake City.

Matt (or so he introduced himself later) got on the train at least one station after I did, settled his bike into the stairwell, then made some unnoticeable comment. I was absorbed in paying attention to how much more the train seemed to bounce and sway now that there weren't as many people on it, as compared to rush hour. My pencil skittered unsteadily over the surface of my sketchbook.

"Must take a lot of practice, to draw on a train." Matt smiled, nodding toward my doodles.

"Keeps my mind occupied," I replied, intending the conversation to stop there. He, apparently, had different ideas.

"Are you a student?"


"Oh, what are you interested in?"

"Everything." That was mostly true, but perhaps leaning toward hyperbole.

"Everything, huh? Do you really mean that you have an interest in everything? I mean, I have interest in math but I don't like to do it."

The conversation drifted toward opinion, psychology, and social expectations; he mentioned he was of a radical political view, that people seem to be afraid of each other, that society is compartmentalizing and causing us all to pursue a single expertise rather than a broad knowledge, that he enjoyed writing and drawing — I mentioned standing to face the rear of elevators (an infraction of unspoken social rule) and the assumed reality of perception.

Here it seemed that I had met a 'Great Trax Conversationalist;' the kind of person who, without the obvious aid of mental illness, honestly wanted to engage a complete stranger (a stranger in a public space, no less) in a discussion about anything and everything that would come to mind. The kind of person I find interestingly bemusing.

He exited one station before I did, just after we finally got around to introducing ourselves to each other.

Jane, one of the world's most valuable secretaries (right up there with Ro, the secretary of my art department at Uni), told me yesterday that the angels must have kissed me. At least, that was the translation of the Swedish word; she couldn't remember the English for 'dimples' at the time. So, I tried to say the Swedish word; German training notwithstanding, I couldn't quite get it right. She told me to give her another word, she'd tell me the Swedish for it, and I could try again.

Pickle. "Gurrrrken."

I was dismayed. "I can't roll my r's."

"Arrr!" she smiled. "Like a pirate. Arrr. That's the sound the Finnish use to train their children. Put your tongue in the r position and blow air hard across it. You try that, practice that, you will be able to roll your r's in no time."

"Ar—" I laughed and shrugged. "Before I'm twenty-five, Jane; you bet I'll be able to roll that pesky letter."

"Have a fun weekend," Jane smiled as I was heading out the door. It was early, but there was nothing left for me to do today. "Are you seeing anyone?"

Strangely enough, I have been asked that question at least three times this week by various adults. "No, Jane; I've never seen anyone." I smiled. "I blazed through school, then realized afterward that I was probably expected to have a relationship in there somewhere."

"Well, I'm good at picking out the weird ones." Jane waved a hand. "But, I got really good at flirting, back when I was your age and interested in such things."

"That and rolling r's, Jane; I'm no good at either."

"Learn how to open doors with a smile," she advised, "and practice winking. Say your arrr's like a pirate and practice winking in front of a mirror; just don't do it when anyone can see you."

Saying goodbye, I slipped across the floor to the travel department and obtained a new UTA pass. Exiting the building, I made my way through the construction walkways. I noted the Halloween costumes a few passersby were wearing and remembered the group I had seen earlier below my window: a princess, a ninja, and mickey mouse were all with their mother — it seemed like the beginning of a joke at the time, one that lacked a punchline and was strangely out of place among the downtown construction.

As I exited one section of walkway I was greeted by a construction worker.

"Hello, ma'am," he smiled and said something else softly.

I gave a small, confused smile in return and kept walking.

At the Trax station I was approached by a foreign couple who wanted directions to Trolley Square. I gave them the best advice I could, but acknowledged that I wasn't really sure; this wasn't my city.


So many people talked to me today; so many strange, curious, fascinating people. I admit that Salt Lake City isn't the largest, isn't the most controversial, isn't the number one place to live or take a vacation. Still, Salt Lake City is my new home &mdash I intend to watch and learn.

Welcome to my world in the public sector.