Friday, August 22, 2014

a happy on-purpose

We were stuck in traffic on I-80.
And "stuck in traffic" is an understatement.
We were no longer on a highway, we were in a parking lot.
We realized we were no longer in a driving situation when a man darted out of his sleek black pick-up truck into the Jersey woods next to the highway.
Although we were all separated into our little motor vehicle spheres, you could see all the heads swivel to watch the only person moving. And although we were all sealed inside our steel vehicles, you could hear the titters rippled across the rows and rows of cars as we all realized that nature had placed definite demands upon this man's body, that he simply had to go respond to.
He returned from the woods with a sheepish yet impish grin on his face.
Breaking rules, I think, has that effect on people.
Then, mass chaos began.
The basics in the car in front of us emerged in a state of heightened ennui from their imitation CR-V and started strutting up and down the interstate in their high-heel wedges like it was a catwalk and we all had front row seats at Prada's fall collection.
They chatted with the nice family from the red Ohio pick-up truck next to them.
The nice family from Ohio got out of their car, as did multiple other families.
Behind us, there were more people on the road than cars, as families stretched their legs, middle-aged women filmed the scene on iPhones, and an Asian couple wandered into the woods on the other side of the road.
It was very surreal.
Not what highways usually are all about.
Speaking of surreal experiences, if you've ever heard the noises of people in the next room come through the vents in your hotel room, that is a trip (as in acid, not road).
Particularly if you are in New Jersey, and their conversations are fulfilling all sorts of regional stereotypes.
You're sitting in peace, and then all of a sudden, a conversation is floating out of this vent like it's happening right next to you.
This is a: an interesting premise for a murder mystery (I've been reading too many murder mysteries this summer.) b. a serious breach of privacy for the poor, unsuspecting people on the other side of the vent. and c. unnerving.
How many conversations a day do I have that people overhear?
If not through hotel vents, through other means.
You know when you walk by people in the food court of a mall, or pass their table in a restaurant, and you hear snippets of their conversation, just one or two words, and they are stamped in your brain like your favorite 6th grade Lisa Frank unicorn stamps.
But I never really think of myself as being in their shoes, as one of those someones who is overheard by passers-by just as I'm uttering a sentence that out of context is inexplicable or disastrous.
It is such a pity we are only allowed glimpses into so many different lives, and we never see the outcome of the story after we've been allowed a small sneak peek.

At dinner, my second-cousin-once-removed (these sorts of title for relations are what make family relations so wonderful, and make you realize the wisdom of a language like Aramaic, which would simply dub these relations all "cousins") told a story at dinner about his apiary, and an unfortunate yet hilarious encounter with his angry autumn bees. I laughed as I hadn't heard myself laugh in too long.
It wasn't my giggly laugh, or my snort laugh, or my laugh that I laugh around good friends who can make me laugh with just a word or an inside joke or a roll of their eyes.
It was the laugh I laugh when I discover something new.
The laugh that I laugh when I find someone wholly wonderful and surprising.
The laugh I laugh when someone is being themselves, simply because they couldn't be anything otherwise.
The laugh I laugh when I think I can actually really see another human being.
Another human who, as Thomas Merton says, is shining like the sun.
There are no words to describe such radiance, but perhaps their are worse responses to it than laughter.

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