Saturday, January 17, 2009

People, Relationships and Serious Questions from 3rd Graders

As some of you have read, I have been looking for volunteer positions to help me get more experience in teaching. One of the things I have been doing to find these listings is to scour the Volunteer section of Craigslist. It is filled with some very interesting opportunities and a few ridiculous ones. Whenever I look there I think about how technology can help bring people together that might not ever connect. I had no real idea how to volunteer. I am not as comfortable walking in and asking if they need help as I am responding to a posted ad. I know from the ad that they are looking and usually before I respond I know if the days and times will be right for my schedule. It is fantastic. As a result of these posted requests I have set up two very different opportunities for myself and I am excited about starting them next week. So here I was feeling pretty good about the internet and the way it keeps me connected with people. You might not know this but I am not a huge fan of the phone. If it was not for the internet most of you would never hear from me. So in my "happy with the internet" state I decided to look around other parts of Craigslist. I was instantly reminded of the bad side. Amidst the good and honest postings are scammers. People that are preying on your fears and feasting on your ignorance. Now, to avoid a lawsuit or a defamation case, I will give credit to Craig and those that frequent his list. They do a good job of monitoring and pulling things that are sketchy. So this is not a rant about those evil scammers out there.

After some lengthy exploration I finished looking through the community, job and gig listings. I was not quite ready to go to bed as I have a large tankard of rum and coke I am wading through... So I decided to look at the romantic listings. I was amazed at the ineptitude of several of the posters. One woman who is seeking companionship starts off by saying "I was reading about all the dorks and..." Then she follows that up with "so freekin bored and thought i would let you guys know... some of y'all are dorks, but cute in their own way, so now i have made my own dork page." I don't know about you but I am looking for something to go beat down her door with, she sounds great! So here I am reading this post thinking "why would you post that?" What made you think insulting everyone right off the bat would help you meet people? As my thinking progressed I realized that maybe there is something wrong with society..... why are there so many singles out there? And why are most of the singles so inept at dating and/or meeting new people? Why does a new web dating service pop into existence every other week?

I figure that it was about the time I left college that I realized how hard it was to meet people as an adult. I made new friends at work and the fact that I was back in Phoenix among good long term friends helped a lot. I was hanging with old friends and had figured out how to make new friends as well. I had periods where I did not feel as connected or where I was not as interested in knowing my co-workers outside of work but I still had my core group. The problem was I didn't like Phoenix and I wanted out of there. So I moved and it has been an interesting task to make the friends I have up here. I have made several good friends but it wasn't as easy without the core group to fill in the gaps. Life can be lonely for a while when you are in a new town. When I look around and read the notes on Craigslist, OKCupid, and Singlesnet I see a common theme of disconnect and it does not always have anything to do with a new town. As I thought more about this common streak of loneliness I began thinking of things like the rather rude remark "Old Maid" or even the fact that Ichabod Crane of the Headless Horseman tale was a single male who taught and seems to have been regarded as a bit of an odd duck. Was it really so odd to be single later in life back then? What is different now? Is it the lack of a local community, parents and relatives living nearby and up in your business? Maybe it's because the new world means less actual human interaction. Sure I talk to people a lot through the day but I don't always connect with them. Perhaps people have learned to not be friendly and open. When you next travel through a day take a mental note of how you interact with people you don't know. Think things like, did I just pay for my gas or did I greet the attendant warmly and exchange pleasantries? What makes us so distant from people around us? Don't we all inhabit the same area? Why do most people pretend other people don't exist? Telling children about "stranger danger" may have helped bring about this general lack of warmth towards the unfamiliar faces around us but I know that message is taught for a real reason. Strangers can be dangerous, even those that promise candy, however don't we need to at least be pleasant to each other?

It occurs to me that most of this pontificating did not really originate out of my casual interest in Craigslist people. It hearkens back to a little girl from my class today and the conversation we had as she helped me clean up. We were talking about the projects we had been making in class, actually she is not in my class because she is in a music program but she has a strong desire to be in my class. She began the conversation by asking me how I became a Mad Scientist. I told her a version of the truth and she began a streak of questioning that would lead me to this post. She asked me if I built the Styrofoam planes with my kids and I told her I had none. She then asked if I built the Styrofoam planes with my wife and I once again admitted I had no such person in my life. She was quiet for a second as she was putting what I had told her into her classifying schema. I continued cleaning. After getting a grasp on the fact that I was an adult and not married, she wanted to know about what I was doing to rectify this situation. She looked me in the eye and asked "What if you met someone who thought you were cute and she made you happy, would that make you happy?" I answered the only sensible answer "Yes." Then she asked me with a straight face, "What if you met someone that you fell in love with and you got married tomorrow, would you want that?" Now it was my turn to pause (and stifle a giggle). No one has ever asked me a question like that before but I realized this girl was serious and I decided to take the question seriously. So I said "Well I would be surprised by something like that but I think sometimes it's good to listen to what your heart says." We had a longer conversation as she was enjoying talking to me and I was enjoying talking to her. Then her mother came and asked a bunch of questions about Mad Science birthday parties and when the next Mad Science class session started because she knew her daughter wished she could be in class. Somewhere in that conversation the one I had with the woman's 3rd grade daughter was put on the back burner. Where it waited to build strength and burst out in a long rambling post at 2 AM Saturday morning.


Robert said...

Sounds like that 3rd grader was trying to set you up with her mom. LOL!!!

Michael Williams said...

She might have been. I am sure she would love to make styrofoam planes at ome and figures so would her mom.... haha