#54 In Roads-Struggling


Having a tough time reaching out to people today. It’s hot out and the humidity makes it even more miserable so people seem out of sorts, including myself. I’m in shut down mode and would be perfectly content to not speak to anyone but try to strike up a conversation with a 16 year old. Everyone seems young in Portland, and on some other plane. The kid gives me a stare down over the top of his iPhone before I get the hint that he has no intention of talking to me. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m old and he isn’t or if he’s shy like me. Either way, there is no connection. I give up and leave feeling isolated and frustrated.

Walking to the grocery I pass several people who appear to have their own frustrations. One young woman looks scared and puts her head down as we pass on the sidewalk. I tell her hello but she doesn’t look up. I wonder if it’s something in my attitude that’s turning folks off. By the time I get to the store I’m desperate and committed to having a conversation with someone but the results are the same: rejection. I resort to the checker.

She’s warm and chatty but shuts down when I take her photo. She won’t make eye contact. I didn’t ask to take her picture, so I understand her demeanor but she never asks why I’m questioning her or taking her picture. She patiently answers all the questions I ask, however. She’s a student and juggles the cashier job between semesters at the Oregon Health and Science University in Southwest Portland. The 19 year old shares that she is taking biology and English and plans to teach high school biology when she graduates. She expects it to take four years to get her teaching certificate and she seems sure she will breeze through easily. She wishes me a nice evening and I leave feeling that while I did follow the rules of having a conversation, I cannot honestly say I feel I actually met anyone today. Maybe tomorrow will be better, though it’s supposed to be another 90-degree day. Maybe I just need to find an air-conditioned place to stalk chatty folks.


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