"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day


In a Vacuum.

On Friday the CEO of my company e-mailed everyone looking for volunteers to do outreach to the homeless this weekend. As I am quick to volunteer, and slow to think things over, I volunteered, and ended up driving a mini-van around the Upper West Side from 12a to 8a this morning. So many questions come to mind, don't they? It was actually quite liberating as I had never driven in NYC before, but that's not what this is about.

On my journey, I had a co-worker with me. She is an administrative assistant at another of our facilities and I had never even heard her name until Friday when I was told that I would be driving around for 8 hours with her as my co-pilot. I've had several experiences like this since moving to NYC, where you're stuck in a room (or mini-van) with someone for an extraordinary amount of time, and something happens. You, for those however many hours, are the best of friends. Last night I learned about her job and her family; how she only likes warm weather; that her birthday is in September (which is the best month because it has the greatest birthstone); how she really likes fresh fruit (which lead to a trip to Fairway at 6a); how she doesn't drink coffee but likes her tea light and sweet. And when I was temping I had a similar experience, when I worked for an advertising agency, putting together publicity packets, for one day. My agency had sent over this other girl, and again, we were for those eight hours the best of friends. She was an opera singer, from the MidWest; she understood why we got along so well when she learned that I was a Sagittarius; she had bitten off her finger nails due to a very stressful ski trip with her boyfriend, who she wasn't sure that she would be seeing much longer; and I cried in front of her after one of the graduate schools I was applying to told me that they hadn't received my recommendation letters. Now aside from that crying part (as everyone in Manhattan has seen that at one time or another), so much of what was shared there was not so much stuff you share with total strangers. I haven't even gone into what I said (because I don't really remember) but I probably talked about the complication of some relationship I was in; or the difficulty of being unemployed and applying for grad school; or my relationship with my family. And all because we needed someway to pass the time. But then when the situation is over, and you've dropped them off at their house at 8a, or the work day has ended and the job has not been extended, the relationship ends with it, and we know this. No e-mail addresses or phone numbers are exchanged, no plans are made for future meetings. And, especially in the case of my fellow temp, this person may know more about me than anyone in NYC.

I like to imagine what life would be like if all relationships were formed in the vacuum of a mini-van or a conference room. So much unfettered honesty, no thought for the consequences of it, no need to think about the future, no stress and no strain about maintaining the friendship, no need to keep a respectable distance. Just active understanding, intent listening, thoughtful discussion.

1 comment:

nathansethjones said...

i really like what you have to say here. i enjoyed our own time together in the minivan, eating chewy breakfast sandwiches