A Plane Encounter

I saw her as she neared gate 32. Amongst all the harried flyers stressed about their delayed flight, she was different. Far from exasperation, her face carried a sense of peace, bemusement, and lightheartedness which I found refreshing. It didn’t hurt that she was cute.

Group after group boarded the plane. I was to sit near the front of the plane, so I was the last group to be called for boarding. My group finally called, I noticed she was just now getting on as well. I board, find my seat, and notice that she had been behind me all this time only to hear her say, “I believe I’m sitting next to you.”

Terrified, I remained quiet for nearly an hour. Even as I age my shyness remains, much the same way it exuded itself in my youth. There are essentially three socially-acceptable opportunities that one has a chance to engage someone on an airplane: takeoff, beverage distribution, and landing. Takeoff had come and gone, and we were nearing the end of snack time. Heart pounding in my chest, my mind raced to think of a stimulating, yet appropriate opening question.

“Are you stopping in Chicago, or going somewhere else?” I ask.

After a slight pause, surprised I have the ability of producing sound with my vocal cords she responds, “Just stopping in Chicago.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I reply. “Do you live there?”

“No, just meeting some friends. I live in Boston and this is the furthest I’ve ever been in the Midwest.”

I saw my opportunity and took it. “Are you kidding me?” I ask incredulously.

From there we entered into a lively discussion about the Midwest, where she asked me what there was to do out here – the implications being obvious.

“Oh probably the same things you do out there. What do you do in Boston?” – “Oh sleep.” -- “Yep, you can definitely do that here. Although normally I line-dance whenever I’m not at the rodeo.”

She looks at me in disbelief, and the conversation takes off with all my southern charm and her New England civility. I realized there was a world of difference between her and me, and I also realized I had never talked to someone so seemingly similar but so very different from myself.

When I traveled to Japan I expected to be different. Even in Europe and Australia I had no expectations of having remarkable similarities between the locals and myself. But talking to her, someone who was fresh out of college and had a very professional job like my own, I expected to relate more. The differences quickly became visible as I realized I was more boisterous than her, while she was more well-mannered. She loved the city and the “pubs”; I liked the countryside and Gatorade. Both of us were highly educated and well-traveled, but I appeared to be someone who was posing as an intellectual and world-traveler. She, on the other hand, made it appear that it was as natural for her to fly to Europe as it was for me to drive to Texas.

The conversation ends and I return to my book, spending the remainder of the flight in silence after a rewarding half-hour conversation.

The plane eventually started its descent and I realized that there probably should be no landing talk. My bravado gone, I waited for the plane to land and turned to her and said “Have a good time in Chicago.”

“Have a nice weekend.”

I never caught her name.


Fear, Tradition, and Dirt Roads

I went to bed early last night. Not because I was tired, but because I was full of fear. Then I tossed and turned starting about four till I woke up. I always have trouble sleeping whenever I'm upset or worried about something. This morning I had good reason for lost sleep - I was going running.

I graduated from college over three years ago, and during my days at OC I was a fairly successful athlete and scholar. My philosophy on life had been that you can be great at anything if you put your all into it, and if you make the necessary sacrifices. Then I graduated. I decided it was time for a paradigm shift and that my new objective was going to be fun. I threw discipline to the wind and started having a good time, forgetting what it mean to regularly train or study on a consistent basis.

Now three years later I am about twenty-five pounds heavier, a whole lot slower, and probably much duller then I was back in my OC days. But this morning the spark and drive from college was reignited.

You see I went running with a guy who was a freshman when I was a senior, and also with one of the best runners the state of Oklahoma has ever known. I knew what I had become and what I had been, thus the fear existed of how these two guys would demolish me out on the road. For this reason alone I have mainly ran by myself for three years, telling myself that it was ok to be slow. It is a natural result of age after all, right? Out on the road though there is nowhere to hide - you either have it or you don't. And this morning I certainly didn't.

But I hung on for dear life with my friend Wade and ran the fastest ten miler I have ran in years. Afterwards I dry-heaved like the good ole days, over and over again. However, I realized something in that whole experience and that was I do not like mediocraty. I enjoy life by doing things well, and sometimes that means having discipline and working hard. There was a real thrill in having worked myself to the breaking point this morning, and my self-esteem skyrocketed.

And a traditiona was born! We decided that we would start getting together every Saturday morning, when most people are still asleep in their beds, and run a long run together. What a strange way for God to answer prayers though! Just last night I was frustrated with God in that I felt lost and alone, with no one who I really connect with. And while I don't know these guys well yet, I do know that if we do continue to get together and run we will form a very deep bond. There is just something in sweat, eccentricy, and a dirt road that brings people together. Or at least us crazy runners!


Seth Examined

For weeks I've been promising a post on the Ashley Stockingdale series, and while it has been sometime since I've completed the books I haven't been able to come up with a suitable blog. I've thought of posting everything from a three-part series examining the three main characters, to a simple one line post that would read, "These books are ridiculous." I think I'll compromise though and tribute one blog to our dear friend Seth, and conclude with the fact that this series was truly ridiculous.

Short biased synopsis for those who haven't read the books (beware, spoilers!):
This series was popular in our class at church by many of the girls in class, and thus I thought I would see what all the intrigue was about. Essentially the plot consists of a self-centered, materialistic, over-indulgent Christian female who is a successful patent lawyer in Silicon Valley. Her main goals in life consist of shopping and trying to get married. Enter hapless computer engineer, Seth. He's a sweet guy who is incredibly itelligent and balding. Unfortunately he suffers from being socially awkard like the rest of us guys who don't have a clue. Ashley is in love with him, and they even date for a considerable time although eventually he isn't ready to commit. Thankfully Ashley is rescued by a pediatrician doctor who looks like Hugh Jackman (whoever that is) that must have memorized all of the romantic lines from Casablanca. The story ends with, surprise upon surprise, her marrying the cute, suave guy leaving the computer engineer in the dust.

Seth Examined
I really liked Seth in the first book. Probably the reason why is because I identified with him the most. As much as I would like to think I look like Hugh Jackman and can quote Emily Dickenson, truth is I probably am a lot more like the goofy, bumbling Ben Stiller. Unfortunately we never get all of Seth's story and we are left to wonder what his life consisted of before the Ashley drama started. I like to think that he tried to start relationships with several girls who broke his heart, and thus he gradually becomes increasingly more passive in his attempts to meet girls. So by the time he becomes interested in Ashley he is so confused of what a girl is looking for he doesn't know what to do.

Unfortunately this perspective is never told, and we see Ashley constantly ragging on him for being a weak, timid male. Thus we start to see the true nature of Ashley in that she has no understanding of humans outside of herself. Even in her relationship with Kevin (the cute doctor) we constantly see how the relationship revolves solely around her which was frankly disheartening.

Back to Seth. In the end I was disappointed by him, because he wasn't bold enough to put it all out on the line. When he finally got up the courage it was too late, and he had missed his opportunity. However, in some ways I think Seth got the better end of the deal since I was never a big fan of Ashley! :)

This is a very consise editorial, and I'm afraid it doesn't do the series justice. The books were ok, although should only be taken as a merely entertaining read. The editor missed a ton of mistakes, and the books will only truly be relateable for probably ten years since they are inundated with current cultural trends which will eventually fade. But, if you are looking to kill some time and perhaps some brain cells, knock yourself out! You may even learn there are more brands of clothing then Gap and Old Navy.


Diminishing Returns

"About a Boy" starts out with the main character segmenting his life into chunks of time. Granted most of these chunks either involve him getting a massage, or watching worthless British game shows, but this is how his daily activities are dictated. His life flows along very smoothly as long as he can fit everything into these perfect divisions. Recently I've been feeling like my life is much the same way. Here is my day-to-day activities for Monday thru Friday:

5:20 - 6:10: Wake up, go run
6:10 - 6:30: Stretch
6:30 - 6:45: Shower, get dressed
6:45 - 7:05: Eat breakfast, prepare lunch, clean kitchen, brush teeth
7:05 - 5:00: Work
5:00 - 7:00: Study Greek / Eat Dinner / Go to meetings
7:00 - 9:00: Bible study / Greek class / church
9:00 - 10:00: Study Greek or pretend to and actually read a book/magazine I find interesting
10:00 - 10:30: Read Bible, pray, go to bed

The scary thing is I'm trying to figure out how to actually make more time to do other things in this schedule. My running time is going to get pushed up more and more as my runs get longer, and it appears I will have to study harder at Greek if I want to make an A.

Which has made me realize that you eventually reach a diminishing returns point when you suffer from a lack of time. You cannot do everything exceptionally well, especially the more you try and do. So what do you let slide? This is my struggle right now. I love running and being in shape way too much to give up running every morning, which also means I have to go to bed relatively early. I have a great job but it has high expectations so I can't really slack off there. That seems to leave only one thing: Greek.

To those of you who are not very studious, that seems relatively easy! The thing is, the last time I made a B was in Calculus senior year. I pretty much adopted the philosophy in college that there is no reason you cannot get an A in every course if you devote enough time and attention to the subject. I still believe the same holds true in graduate school. Perhaps I'm a bit delusional, or perhaps I just have not been in a subject that I haven't been able to wrap my little dendrites around yet. But Greek seems to be pushing me on both areas: its time consuming and its stinking hard!

So I don't want to give up and settle for a B just yet. But I'm wondering just how much I kill myself for this one. And perhaps, moreover, how much do I kill myself for grad school? I started the M.A. program because I was bored and felt like I was watching too much TV. Its always good to know more about the Bible and thus it seemed a prudent thing to do with my abundance of time. Even now my primary motivation is to know more about God by taking these clases. However, that nagging GPA issue looms over my head like the dark cloud that it is. Blah! Plus having friends, a life, and perhaps a bit of relaxation wouldn't be a bad thing either. Any words of advice from any of you that have worked hard in the scholarly world I would appreicate.

I just looked back at my schedule and realized "blog time" was not on there. I must get back to it!


More Inaccessible than Jane Eyre

I have been disconnected from the world for nearly five days. That's right, I am without my BlackBerry! Last Saturday while we were camping a torrential downpour (I just like using the phrase 'torrential downpour') occurred and my BlackBerry fizzled out. Since then I've been without not only a phone, but constant email and Internet access. Really and truely, I don't know how I'm functioning.

Actually, quite nicely! Its kind of nice to be disconnected from the world. Instead of feeling the necessity to immediately respond to every email or phone call, I feel like I have a justified cause to take my time in returning correspondance. Now, by taking my time I mean within a few hours, but that is way longer than the usual immediacy a BlackBerry imposes.

Which has gotten me thinking how our communication expectations have changed over the past five years. Five years ago I had voice mail and email in my room only. Thus I could only reasonably be expected to return a message from the point I returned to my dorm. So typically this would be given at least a half-to-full day turn around time. With the increased use of cellphones though not only do I feel the expectations to get back immediately, but be available almost 24/7 to answer the call since my cell should be with me at all times. Now that I have a Blackberry the same is true with email. I had a friend the other day at work that was shocked it took him 45 minutes to get a response back from someone. 45 minutes!

I think your communication expectations are somewhat determined by your technocratic status. People with only landlines have a different set of expectations placed on them then their cellphone counterparts. The same is true between people with email at home as opposed to BlackBerry devices.

This doesn't seem quite fair though. Oh sure, I still have a choice whether or not to respond to work after 5:00 and I have set a rule for myself to not reply unless its an emergency. But at what point do you become accountable for knowledge? At the time you receive it?

I wish life was like the days of Jane Eyre. I remember while reading the book how easy it was for Jane to disappear, and how nice that would be. Jane was completly distraught with her trust and love being violated, and thus she runs out in the middle of the night. No attempts to discover her location prevailed. Because she did not have a cell phone, email, or any other device which is not location specific she had the ability to disappear forever. That really got me thinking about how all of our communication mechanisms have changed the expectations of our relationships.

Ok, well ironically, on this communicative medium known as a blog I'm having a hard time getting my thoughts out. If you want to know more, just call. I'll get back to you in time. :)