People ask me in social conversation what I “do” with some regularity. Sometimes I tell them that I hula hoop for an hour at a time while memorizing poetry. Or practice my signature late at night with my husband’s fountain pen. Or spend twenty minutes talking to the homeless lady who plays cards in the civic circle every time I drop off books at the library. Or wear peasant skirts and furry boots to the bus stop while I read Latin roots to my daughter as we wait.
I mean really, people. I appreciate the need for chit chat, but if we have to play these social games, let’s play fun ones. Like maybe instead of asking someone what they do, ask them instead if they are engaged in a work that they are passionate about. And then talk about that. Or just observe and see if you can perceive if someone digs their life and then ask them about it.
Like today, for example. I step into the gray world of the indoor ice-skating rink at the mall, and pass the ticket booth to join my husband kids on the ice. I don’t get far when a fairly young, dark-haired dude with an otherworld charisma and an electric presence of sincerity asks me how I’m doing today. He’s passing out wristbands to the would-be-skaters, and he’s beaming with happy, bouncing light all over the place.
“I’m exceptionally well,”I tell him, and he smiles and says, “wonderful!”
The second time I pass him, he smiles asks me how I’m doing “this time,” and I tell him I’m doing at least as well as I was the time before, and I smile back at him. By this time, my girls are at my side, and so he asks them how they enjoyed skating, and what other talents they have, as he makes them laugh and me too.
I decide that besides skating with Hugh and the girls, meeting him was the highlight of my day, and so I ask if I can snap a picture.
“Yes, but you have to be in it too,” he says. And so we did, and it was fabufun, and though the only personal question I asked him was his name, I felt more human connection with him than during 27 “professional” conversations over sushi and special crackers. I felt like I counted and I mattered, not because of a list of titles or a a resume, but just because I was there.
His name is Wizwald, by the way. And he rocks the ice skating rink in Portland, Oregon. So if you want to feel like a million bucks, go there and see what it looks like to “do” something with panache and passion and without pretense. Then rip around the ice a few times too.