It started with the reading I went to tonight. The author was engaging, reflective, honest and humble. Funny too. He talked about his process of writing, the mistakes he's made, and ranted a bit at the end about technology (prompted by an audience question). He shared my same thinking - that it's a wonderful tool but that it is taking us away from each other in many ways. Glowing screens at the dinner table take the place of meaningful discussion. iPhones become pacifiers for babies. First dates take texting breaks in between dinner and dessert. This is the new norm. Many of us struggle to be present because of the beeps and the constant wondering about what might be happening in one's inbox, one's Facebook wall, one's Twitter or Instagram feed. It's endless. If you let it be.
Then, talking to someone else at the reading (a friend of my friend Jess who invited me) about growing up in Queens. Throwing neighborhoods, streets, local shops back and forth, challenging each other to remember, and then celebrating each other's recollections with "Yes!" and "Oh my gosh - that place!" It almost felt like we had grown up in the same neighborhood together. At the same time.
And then on my way home, at the crosswalk a block before reaching my apartment. It was not my right of way, so I stood there waiting a pace away from the sidewalk, facing the oncoming traffic (versus the direction I was headed). Two men had just arrived behind me and the older, much shorter of the two, probably in his 50s, said in a sort of jokey tone, "What are you waiting for?" I laughed and explained that I was going that way instead of this way. Banter ensued and they wound up finding out what I do and that I am newly married. I found out that they are family friends, the younger of the two a photographer and a writer, the older an educational therapist. We talked about our work and the fact that the photographer will have a show on February 14th.
I almost hesitated to write about this for fear that I would sound gullible. "Wow, Jen... a few random men wanted to talk to you. Wise up!" Look, I'm pretty street smart, but what I am talking about here is almost the answer to that writer's concern. People actually stopping to really see each other. It was so strange to connect so quickly to four random people tonight... perfect strangers. And I realize that this doesn't happen to me anymore but probably used to...more at least? Perhaps it's technology's take-over (how often are we in public by ourselves and not plugged into headphones or staring at our phones?). Or maybe it's the busy-ness of life that makes me defend loyally my time, not always so open to sharing with new people when I barely have time for those already in my life. Those already loved.
The last thing I said to the author at the reading was, "Hey. The silver lining with this new dynamic around technology is that those who aren't always clutching to theirs will have an easier time finding each other. We will have our heads up as we are walking down the street." Slowing down, I found some interesting and great people that gave me a little lift, some new ideas, and a hopeful feeling about people. Even strangers.