Having Fun with People

I love encountering people I can have fun with.

Today on my walk in Bellingham I crossed the road at the same time a young man with his hair in a bun and a Hollywood smile was crossing the road from the other direction. When we were a few yards away from each other, in an attempt to get around each other, we both shifted – but we shifted in the same direction, and then shifted together in the other direction. For a moment we went back-and-forth like this, and then he started grinning at the same time I did. Then he crouched over a little and put his arms out – in the position a football player might take if he was trying to keep the running back from making a touchdown. We both started cracking up, and I said, “I’ll just go this direction,” and, laughing together, we finally managed to get around each other.

What a great way to start the day!

On the airplane to Pennsylvania:

With some trepidation, I go back to the restroom on the plane. Plane toilets always scare me a little. I peak around the partition to the flight attendants sitting at their station and say, “Airplane bathrooms freak me out. I’m always afraid I’m going to get sucked out of the plane.”

The attendants start laughing and wish me luck.

When I emerge from the biffy, I tell them, “I survived!”

“Oh my God, I’m so glad to see you!” the one closest to me exclaims, his eyes laughing behind his glasses.

Later the same attendant comes to serve beverages and I ask him for a ginger ale. “Are you sure you want to drink that?” he says, grinning, and pointing to the biffy at the back of the plane. I start cracking up. This man could be a stand-up comic.

I’m at the Beans on Broad Coffee Shop in Grove City, Pennsylvania. I’ve just ordered a 12 oz mocha. I watch as the barista makes my drink for me. He adds whipped cream and then starts squirting a back-and-forth line of chocolate on top of the cream. “Oh,” I sigh happily, “you’re adding more chocolate.”

He looks at me and raises an eyebrow and I know he’s about to have fun with me. “Too much?” he asks. “You want me to take it off?”

“Yeah, let’s scrape that right off,” I say, laughing, and taking it from him before he can actually remove the topping.

We’re in the Philadelphia airport, waiting for our flight. Scott and I have found a quiet place to sit at the end of the concourse. There’s no one else down there except airport employees. I leave my backpack with Scott, and go in search of a bathroom. I pass a young Black cleaning woman pulling a cart of cleaning supplies. I want to smile at her, and greet her – but her head is down and I doubt she’ll look up. Then – magic! – she lifts her head and smiles at me before I can smile at her – and her smile is a beautiful full-faced friendly smile – and before I can greet her, she says, “Hi! How are you?” And that simple natural greeting brings me such joy that I want to skip. I return her greeting – tell her I’m fine and ask her how she is. And she smiles that beautiful smile again and says, “I’m good. Thank you!”

I’m sitting on the plane as my fellow passengers board. A young woman with a blond pony tail walks by with two toddlers in tow. “Keep going,” she’s telling the toddler in the front, patiently waiting for him to take another step. I remember what traveling with small children is like – but she seems to have everything under control. I say to her, “You’re doing great!” She laughs and thanks me. Later, as the plane begins to land, I hear her reading a book to her children in a perfect audiobook voice – using one voice for one character, and another voice for another character – and I think how blessed her children are to have her for their mum.

I’m sitting between Scott – who’s on the aisle – and a young man – who’s sitting next to the window. As the plane begins to take off, I tell the young man that this is my favorite part of the flight – when the wheels leave the earth – and he agrees. We stare out the window together and turn and smile at each other when the plane pulls away from the ground. “Thank you for sharing that with me!” I say, and he thanks me in turn.

I learn that my new friend didn’t get much sleep the night before. He asks if I’d like the window open or closed and I tell him to go ahead and close it and try to get some sleep. He thanks me.

The landing is uneventful and as we’re waiting to disembark, the young man and I chat some more. I learn he was born in Korea – English isn’t his first language, but I never would have guessed that by listening to him. He’s a mechanical engineer and he has a job listening to the accoustics of dolphins – which seems like a very cool job to me – and he agrees. As we get off the plane and start up the ramp, Scotty is way ahead of me, being following by another woman – and I start laughing and tell my new friend that I think my husband thinks that woman behind him is me. I tell him Scott’s going to be surprised when he gets to the concourse and turns around to talk to me. My new friend starts laughing, and says his girlfriend does this to him, too – she lets him think he’s being followed by her, and then has fun watching his reaction when he realizes he isn’t. When we reach the concourse we wish each other a good day and part on our separate journeys.

I order my mocha at the coffee shop and the barista asks for my name. “Karen,” I tell her.

“Kari?” she asks.

“Yeah… yeah… that’ll work,” I say, kind of liking the sound of “Kari.” When I was in college I sometimes signed letters to my mom with “Kari” and she started sometimes calling me that. I get a flash of Mom’s face as she calls me “Kari.”

“I’m sorry – did I get that wrong?” the barista asked.

“Well. I’m Karen. But ‘Kari’ sounds good. Could I pass for a ‘Kari’?” I ask her, laughing. And she says I COULD pass for a ‘Kari,’ but ‘Karen’ is good, too.

The barista has passed my “Karen” test with honors.

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