People and Their Stories

I have a habit of convincing people to tell me everything about their lives. Things I enjoy hearing as well as things I would rather not know. The way I do this is by simply being alive. What I mean is that in public, people I don’t know come and talk to me about anything and everything. Sometimes it’s weird, like that girl who told me all about her body lice and where it came from and where some of it went from her and how she needed to go to the doctor to get her anti-lice cream or something like that.  She had a pretty loud voice and she was laughing the entire time. Weird. Maybe body lice tickle. I looked all around me to see if anyone was listening to our odd and awkward-obviously-only-to-me exchange. I think I pretended like I had somewhere important to go or something.  

Sometimes it can be pleasant though.  There was this older man named Larry who sat down in a chair next to me in Starbucks and talked to me for a long time. And I mean, a long time. But it was fun listening to his story. He was one of those people who had the rare combination of brains and cheerful optimism (and he looked a bit like Santa Claus). Our conversation started because he saw I was reading a book by G.K. Chesterton. Then we talked a bit about C.S. Lewis and I asked what he had read by Lewis, and he asked the same.  He told me all about why he wasn’t reading so much anymore which led into talking about his college, teaching career, owning a tutoring company, his wife, kids, grandkids, and all the places he had lived.  It was funny, he would apologize between every paragraph saying that he talks too much, but I think he used his apology as a ticket to talk even more.

Now, the most recent person who saw me as an emotional dumping ground was “Jon”. I was sitting once again in Starbucks feeling important typing on my Macbook with my headphones in while I listened to my chill music. “Hey man, is anyone sitting here?” He said it with intensity.  I was a bit startled when he spoke and startled again when I looked up. He was skinny and tall with intense, nearly bugging eyes. I could tell he liked to wear black. Not gothic or emo black, but the lazy and tacky, I-don’t-want-to-think-about-what-color-to-wear black. He had a black cap, black polo shirt and black shoes with black socks that went half way up his calf. I believe he was wearing khaki cargo shorts. Or maybe they were black. I don’t know. “No, no one’s sitting here.” “Ok, cool.” He sat down, pulled out his laptop, set up some kind of internet box contraption, and I could see he was occasionally glancing at me through my peripheral vision. He’s going to ask about my MacBook, I was thinking. I tried to focus on what I was reading. His head turned. Another glance. Don’t ask me about my MacBook. I wasn’t even paying attention to my computer anymore.  The tension was too great. He’s gonna do it. I wanted to get up and move, but that would have been way too obvious.

“Hey man, do you like that?” He asked pointing to my computer.

“Yeah, It’s great!” pretending to be happy he asked.

And wow! I don’t know what happened after that, but he went into this huge life story about high school, where he had lived, his cars, how much he hated Orange Park and Jacksonville, and how much he loved Craig’s List.  This went on for an hour or so until some guy who was selling an MP3 player on Craig’s list met him there to sell it to Jon.  Jon also apologized profusely for talking profusely only so he could continue with his profuse talking.

About two weeks later I saw Jon at Starbucks again. He wanted my email and facebook so we could “shred” sometime. “Do you surf?” No.  “Aw, man, I was wanting to know if you wanted to shred sometime.” I didn’t know it was called that.  He is about 15 years older than I am.

This really seems to happen to me on a regular basis. It’s really cool because I love hearing people’s stories, but they can really drain me.  Especially with someone as intense as Jon. I also really wonder what encounters like that are for. Like, what is the purpose of it in my life, the world and ultimately the universe? It’s weird. I may never see Jon again, but I know a lot about his life story. But for what? I know God is ultimately in control, but I want to know what He’s up to. I want to know what His purpose is in every little thing.  I know, it’s a ridiculous desire for someone who is stuck in time and can only be in one place at any given time.