Wednesday, December 4, 2013

This lady I met at the party

I was at a party tonight, and I met a woman.

Not the kind of party you probably go to - this was a "Hey, We All Just About Survived Another Semester" party with the other PhD students and candidates at GT who weren't removed from the program in some voluntary/involuntary fashion. It mostly consisted of bowling, enjoying free food and beverages, and using really big words (most of which I freely admit intimidate me).

After a couple of hours, I strayed away from the main group and noticed the drink table, behind which our bartender/drink server stood. It occurred to me that she looked very alone. It also occurred to me that we'd been there quite some time and she didn't have a chair. Then it occurred to me that I was thirsty.

So I went and asked for some water. She asked if I was sure, because nobody else was drinking water. I said I liked water. Then I asked her how she was.

We tend not to notice people we aren't forced in some way to notice. That's psychology - we notice friends, enemies, people who look different from our conception of normal, and people we are otherwise forced to notice (such as that jerk who tried to steal our tractor when I was a kid). Otherwise, people tend to blend into the background.

We also tend to shy away from interacting with people who don't look like us or seem like us. That's part of the similarity attraction paradigm. Sad as it is to say, we subconsciously judge people by their appearance and how similar we think they are to ourselves. People of different ages, ethnicities, and races may as well be speaking another language as far as that subconscious is concerned. We prefer to stay with people just like us, safe in our comfort zones.

Sharon (that was the bartender's name) does not look like me. She was a short woman, African-American, and older than me by perhaps a good bit (although I shouldn't say that - I'm a terrible judge of age). She seemed a bit frazzled, her eyes were bloodshot, and she was missing a couple of teeth. I am aware that some people I know would be tremendously uncomfortable speaking to her. That's a shame.

One might assume that a woman serving drinks at a university student center bowling alley would be in the lower rungs of society. That they would have little to add to the kinds of conversations that 'academics' have. Maybe that's true, but I doubt it. And it's a dangerous assumption, regardless.

Sharon and I got to talking, and she taught me what a dialysis machine is. She taught me how the process works, when it's needed, how it's used, and what the dangers are. I didn't know any of this before. Some (misguided) people consider me intelligent, but I had a lot to learn from Sharon, a full-time student and part-time server from Atlanta who is studying to become a medical technician, and who has a final exam tomorrow. She's doing quite well. She has just about survived another semester.

I laughed and talked with Sharon for a good while. It was fun. And it was educational.

There's a lesson in here somewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment