Monday, February 27, 2012

A tale of two encounters

All of us have run across people from our present, near past or even distant past in unexpected places.

My favorite of all of these stories is the time in the late '70's when I was working as a waitress in a coffee shop in a large mall in Dayton, OH.  A man stood in the back, staring at me.  Putting it mildly, this was very disconcerting.  Who was this man?  Why was he starring at me.  I felt uncomfortable.  Exposed.  Nervous.

The "fashionista"
Finally, he approached me with the words:  "It's a long way from LaPlaza Mall."  LaPlaza Mall was (and still is) in McAllen, TX, about as far south as you can go and still be in the United States, where I was enrolled in a language school learning Spanish.  While there, I got a job as a waitress in a coffee shop at the mall.  At the end of the school year, I returned to my hometown of Dayton, OH and, you got it!, got a job as a waitress in a coffee shop there.  I had waited on this man in both places.

He was starring at me because at first he wasn't sure if I was the same person.  To the best of my knowledge, he had only encountered me one time.

Another encounter which was also a total surprise came during a rest stop on the New York State Thruway a few years back.  Someone called my name.  I looked around.  Didn't see anyone I knew.  Kept on going.  Then my husband said, "MamaBear, I think someone's calling you."  He was right.  It was a woman I hadn't seen in years, a former co-worker from Kitchener, ON.
the biker

What are the chances of meeting people you know hundreds of miles from "the scene of the crime"? Infinitesimal?  Slim to nill?

What are the chances of meeting someone you know or knew on the streets of your own hometown?  A large, industrial city in Southern Ontario?  What are the chances of meeting former co-workers in offices, medical practices, etc.?  Still slim but still probably.  Much more probable than the first scenario.

Today, I recount the tale of two recent encounters.  Both different.  One good.  One bad.  Both involving people I knew from the same situation.  One still there.  One, like myself, gone.

Both people had encouraged me in a difficult space.  Not by words spoken, but by actions.  Smiles.  Treating me like a valued person.  Friendly in a hostile environment.  Not friends.  But friendly.

The "creative genuis" in action
My one and only photo t-shirt
One I met in a small, medical office in the reception area.  I was so happy to see her.  I had wanted to contact her and let her know how much she had meant to me in that time, in that place.  And here, unexpectedly, I was given that chance.

She treated me like a human being when I needed that.  She smiled at me.  She engaged in chit chat with me.  I treasured her and valued her for that.  She was a blessing, a bright spot, in an otherwise dark place.

However ... my sixth sense, that pesky radar attuned to currents emanating from people, was in action. Big time.  Actually overtime. Warning me. Telling me things I didn't want to hear.  I made a fatal mistake.  I ignored it.  Turned it off.  Told it to shut up.

the naturalist
My logic, on the other hand, was telling me quite the opposite. It had been many months since I had exited the stressful situation stage left; therefore, I had nothing to fear.

My logic was wrong.

I smiled at this unexpected encounter.  I plunged in without testing the water first.  Immediately telling this woman how glad I was to see her.  How much she had meant to me during this time in my life.  How I had wanted to have the opportunity to tell her this.

At that point, something went wrong.  What happened next is hard for me to put into words as I do not understand it.  I will probably never understand it.  While I was trying to build a bridge between us, I felt an unexplainable, unassailable wall come up.  A solid wall.  A high wall.  A barrier between two people.  I felt something in the way.  She was not receiving my words or the intent behind them.  Why?  I don't know.  I'll probably never know.  I can read currents.  I cannot read others' thoughts.

the sophisticated one?
I continued to try to reach her.  Trying to put her at ease.  Hoping for a smile.  Some sort of human interaction.  Chit chat.  Closure.

Instead, I felt I was verbally attacked.  Not once.  Several times.

I felt violated.  I felt incredible tension and hostility emanating from this person.

In the end, she made it very clear that the two of us could not co-exist in the same waiting room.

I could not deal with the hostility which I sensed bombarding me like emotionally sharp daggers.  I left.

the gardener at rest

Once outside, away from the what I now realize was a violent assault in the form of verbally abusive behaviour, I started shaking.  I began to cry.  Nay.  I wailed.  Like a child bereft of its mother.

 I felt trapped.  I was there in that office at that particular time, that particular day to drive poor Papa Bear to an appointment.  I felt trapped.  I had to wait for him.  I could not just drive off into the sunset.  Every part of my body was in full flight mode.  But I could not flee.

the camper

the pirate?
Then the pain began.  My back spasmed.  I was wrecked.  Uncontrollably weeping.  Seized with physical pain.  Feeling like a piece of flotsam washed up on a sea of hostility,  bereavement, loss.  Utterly useless.  Fit only for the rubbish pile.

The second encounter took place less than two weeks later.  Again, someone who had been friendly at a time when I needed a friend in that same situation, that same place.  In the years since she left, I had run into her a couple of times at the immigration office where she now works.  She was there the day I became a Canadian citizen.  She helped make my day special by

enthusiastically congratulating me.  She was a blessing when I sorely needed one.

My encounter with her happened on a city street, at a bus stop.  After encounter #one, I admit that I was afraid to approach her.  Yet, I did.  My radar, in stand down mode.  Emitting neutral currents. No full alerts.  We embraced.  I told her how much she meant to me.  She responded telling me how much I had meant to her.  That I was always friendly.  I treated her with dignity and respect.  We shared good memories of our association together.  It was good.
the shadow of the woman I once was

Two different encounters.  One message.  Two different outcomes.  Which one reflects the true Mama Bear?

I'll let you, the reader, decide.

Till tomorrow....

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