September 7, 2016
"Hi, honey. How was your day?" I don't fucking care. What I want is for you to listen to my day: I returned the rental car; flushed the black tank; bathed the dogs; did five loads of laundry; cleaned BOB; canceled an insurance policy; booked my parents a hotel in Baltimore for my mother's surgical consultation; transferred, edited, synced, and uploaded some photos to DropBox and FaceBook; ironed three sweaters, three linen shirts, and four pairs of trousers; colored my hair; traded mutual funds; downloaded various financial statements; and, packed up for my departure tomorrow. If you're a guy, a woman will want you to listen to this kind of diatribe. You should do it quietly while making her a drink and then say, "Wow, honey, wow!" It doesn't matter what your day was like, even if your testicles spontaneously combusted at noon. When women have crazy-ass-get-shit-done days like this, you should just listen, because it's not a conversation, and she needed that drink at nine.
Yesterday, I took the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad round-trip. I booked the most expensive seat offered which meant I had a window to myself, the same seat in both directions (so I had both views), a hostess-tour guide, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and banana bread, and the rear platform for my non-seated viewing pleasure. Our hostess-tour guide talked too much and had a loud, annoying laugh which I tried to ignore. I bought a geology map and an Irish coffee from her, and hoped that she didn’t find the transactions humorous.
My opposing seat mate is a long-term US resident from Latvia. She was traveling with sisters who are from Riga. When I asked her where she is from, she politely scolded me by asking, "Do you mean where do I live, or from where is my accent?" How do you ask that question without offending a potential emigre? Do you say, "Clearly English isn't your first language, so what is?" and, risk a different offense? I don’t work for the INS; I'm just curious about people from outside the US.
Our hostess-tour guide asked the 16 of us not to discuss politics during her pre-departure safety warning. She said that two couples had succumbed to blows regarding such earlier in the season, and that the steward had to break up the fight. My seat mate and I smiled at each other and rolled our eyes.
My seat mate was very, very interesting, and very, very bright. It was lovely to converse with her over a variety of topics. She was traveling with a friend of forty years and that woman's sister. I shared my Art Nouveau photos of Riga with them, and spoke to her about my Baltics tour three years ago. When the history of politics in Latvia became a topic and she looked askance, I reminded her that our hostess-tour guide implied caution only regarding current US politics.
I spent the entire three-and-a-half hour return trip on the rear platform because the weather had improved, the opportunity for photographs had improved, and I had started to feel a little motion-sickness sitting inside. My seat mate's friend joined me for a while. We chatted about where we both had traveled in the US and Europe, where we wanted to go, and then she said to me, "You are not a typical American." I know! She said that because I've been to Romania, because I want to go to Albania and the other Balkans, because I want to go to Bulgaria, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, and the "’Stans," because I'll drive a car anywhere, and, because I live in an RV.
A few years ago I had dinner with an acquaintance and her very successful boyfriend (now husband). During the meal, he said to me, "You have an interesting mind." Right: I am not a conventional thinker, and I am not a typical American, and I am just fucking scary to (almost) everyone. When I was in business school I wanted to work for one of those branded consulting firms which the Fortune 100 hires to do "magic." But, the problem for me with those firms is that they are like the military: this is our mission, and these are our rules and thoughts. (The problem for the client is that they get the 80-20 solution which means they jam 80 pounds of shit into a 20 pound sack.)
My father went to the Naval Academy, so I grew up in a command-and-control environment. His usual answer to my challenge of his directive was, "Because I said so," which triggered a visceral response from me of, "Why?" No, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, but you also don't have to keep pushing it yourself. Smart people like me from the “outside” can ask questions and learn at a rate which benefits the employer, but most employers and executive recruiters look for the "usual suspects." It's very discouraging that people are afraid of difference and challenge. I am the square peg and everyone looking to fill a round whole.
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Siobhan M. Knox
In May 2016, I bought a five ton, 25’ long Class C motorhome because I like to drive, I like to travel, and it’s more fun and less expensive than living in a hotel. No prior RV experience was required, and I had none: perfect. I’m writing a book about my adventures which will come to an end when I get a job. The dogs will be sad.