Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Impromptu Day Off

"Can I spare a dollar?"

Shoulder-length red hair, a mustache, and an overall unkempt appearance suggested that he was a vagrant. It took longer to decipher the incorrect grammar and determine what he was trying to say than it did to appraise his appearance.

"I— I'm sorry," I replied, looking away. "I don't have anything."

These days it's been harder to justify expenditures. Especially since, when I showed up to work this morning, both of the individuals I rely on to feed me projects were working from home and had emailed to say they didn't have anything for me to do.

I worked for half an hour and clocked out.

I wandered aimlessly for a little bit, explored a very small section of the LDS Church property, then headed to the Trax station.

The next train to come, that will decide where I'll go.

It was a University train, so I hopped on and rode up past the stadium. On the way I noted a church marquee stating, "The King lives— and we don't mean Elvis."


All over Salt Lake City I spotted these trees. They bristled with large leaves, like pointed ellipses (or rounded diamonds, if you prefer), that varied in waxy shades of deep green; the trees also bore a small red fruit, perhaps the size of a nickel. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but I thought it was quite lovely. Maybe I should add botany (the study of plants), or rather dendrology (the study of wooded plants), to my list of things I should pursue in my so-called 'free time.'

I have difficulty coming to grips with the idea that some people can choose one main pursuit and stick to it for the rest of their life.


I made it to campus and started walking. At one point I walked past a group marching in a hairpin oval shape; they were dressed in orange shirts, carried signs on posts, and were all participating in some indiscernible call-and-response yell. I could tell it was English but, for the most part, no matter how I tried I could not quite grasp what they were saying.

It's always a strange feeling to acknowledge that one's own native tongue can seem so horribly foreign.


Eventually I made it to the library, where I proceeded to find the fourth floor in order to examine their book arts exhibit. Whenever I see letterpress work in particular a corner of my heart gets giddy. Someday I will be able to design and print such beautiful work; someday I will fully be able to convey the feel of typography, the richness of paper and ink.



It's amazing how remarkably alone one can be in a crowded area. It seems like nobody wants to pay attention to each other; we all want to follow whatever unspoken law has forbidden us from interacting in public.

All over the University of Utah campus I saw examples of people engaged in hurried conversation with just one other individual, perhaps a quick 'hello, how are you?' to people they cross whom they have met in a different social sphere, but for the most part the masses will sit or stand or walk or brush by each other without so much as a nod or a smile or any sort of recognition that another person is there at all.

On the trains the exact same behavior is repeated.

In grocery stores, in malls, in movie theaters— we are all intently avoiding contact.

Is it some sort of preservation of emotional energy? Is that why we refuse to interact?

I attended an LDS religion class on the campus today; mostly because I knew I'd be able to find a class schedule and I was confident that I would not be kicked out. There, too, I saw the careful social avoidance that has become the hallmark of our society.

Admittedly I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to avoiding social contact; yet, how much more interesting could life be if we tried to make this world a less intensely individualistic place? How much bother could it really be to smile at someone, to make some sort of comment, to attempt to break just the tiniest bit from the social grind?

Sometimes changing pace can be the best cure for depression.

While Matt (see former post) didn't teach me anything new, he certainly stands as an example of something that could become socially acceptable. Perhaps it is an experiment we could try; perhaps we could change our own attitudes about the world simply by trying to change the way others notice and perceive what is around them.


On the ride home I noted one thing I did not recall on the trip up. That was this: Jimmy John's sandwich shop. A neon sign posted in their window proudly advertised 'free smells,' and the rotating double-scoop ice cream cone above their logo was painted completely black.

Almost makes me wonder if the owner of the place has that sort of humor sense, or if it were done for convenience.

Maybe, on another day off, I'll stop and find out.