Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week #4- [Revised] Ethan!

Yesterday evening, after posting the blurb below that lamented my failure to meet a second person in week #4,  my wife kindly reminded me that this trip was the first time I had actually met my baby nephew Ethan (on Friday!)  Sure, he's family, and he can't talk back- but last week was the first time I've seen him in person, and since I make/bend/stretch/expound/contort/revise the rules for the OFITC challenge- he counts!


I only managed 1 new name in week #4.  I've been with my wife in Virginia Beach, visiting family, and we've been snowed-in for a couple of days now.  Not that I didn't have plenty of chances when navigating the airports on Thursday- I honestly can't really blame the weather for not introducing myself to someone.  We are supposed to fly back to Arkansas tomorrow.  If our flight home doesn't get cancelled, and the rest of the week goes as planned, then I should be able to more than make up for not meeting last week's quota, I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week 4- Rick

I met another person today.  At church.  You might say that's cheating, especially since it's sort of a Sunday morning ritual in America to have the pastor obligate the churchgoers to be friendly for 30 seconds.  The band plays a short tune while half of the congregation awkwardly gazes at the ceiling with hands stuffed in their pockets; the other half jumps over rows of chairs and steps on toes in order to reach the specific necks they are determined to hug.

I typically fall somewhere in the middle- shaking the hand of any inviting individual within arm's reach as long as I don't have to move my feet, making eye contact for a split second, then dropping their sticky palm like a hot potato.  If names are exchanged, it's almost always in one ear and out the other.

Don't worry-  I won't dare count, as one of my 'friends of the week,' an extrovert who pops up in my face, so close I can smell their Nocorette gum, to yell their name in my ear.  But today, during the period of awkward-social-obligation-and-forced-fellowship, I looked into the eyes of a guy like me, a guy who didn't look that eager to talk to anyone he didn't already know.  I grabbed is hand (in manly fashion,) and held on tight.  I told him my name, and asked for his- and he smiled.  That's how I met Rick.

If nothing else, making it a point to document my encounters with people is improving my ability to remember names.  I think my brain used to just ignore or reject them for some reason.  It would only be a matter of seconds before I forgot who that person was.  I might know what they did for a living, their license plate number, their dog's favorite brand of jerky- but their name. . . duhhhhh . . . .

Doesn't anyone else have a story?  Unlike over at, I don't tend to have words for this site every day.  If any of you comment-less ghost readers can write craftily about your experience reaching out intentionally to meet a stranger, then let me know with a comment and I'll get in touch with you in regard to getting it posted here!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Week 3- Kim and Rhonda

This week's new friends were almost too easy.  I'll probably have to do some justifying here, but I've still got Saturday- maybe I can tack on a third.

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment at 3:30,  and you've got to have some level of trust before letting anyone put their hands in your mouth.  I met Kim (the hygienist) and Rhonda (the dental assistant).  They were both really sweet, making small talk back and forth over my face.  I really wanted to join in, but it's a challenge when you have a syringe sized for Frankenstein's tetanus shot being rammed into your gums.

They talked about the first albums they owned, I think Rhonda's was Prince on an 8-track.  I wanted to tell them mine was a Ray Stevens cassette, but of course my mouth was propped open with an awfully expensive chunk of plastic, and there was something akin to an industrial grade Dremel grinding away inside of my oral "cavity."  I think I managed to communicate something once they were done, but my lower lip felt something like a chicken liver taped to my face, so maybe they were just being polite.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week 2, George

If anyone who sees this has been following me on, where I'm 18 for 18 on the poem-a-day goal, you may be beginning to have doubts about my progress in regard to this project- but week 2 was a success!  This post is only making it to the web today because my wife and I spent the weekend in a mountain cabin in Eureka Springs, only returning this afternoon.  Kudos to Jennifer for managing the logistics for this excursion, she even drove us there!

Almost everything touristy including Quigley's Castle, Pivot Rock, Natural Bridge, and even most restaurants that were recommended to us are closed in January.  That seems to be when tourism is at its low point and everything is either being renovated or the hospitality workforce takes off to Puerto Rico for some much-deserved R&R. 

But we didn't go for the tourist traps, and peace and quiet are abundant there this time of year.  The locals who were present were some of the most friendly and hospitable people we've run across in our travels.  On our second day in the cabin, perched high up on the edge of a mountain overlooking Beaver Lake, we stopped by the office to pick out a couple of movies.  A quiet-natured jolly white-haired man who worked there was bustling around the office and we made small talk.  I gathered the nerve to ask him his name and introduced myself before he did- and that's how I met George.

So, by the end of Week #2 I've met Evan, Julian, Susan, and George-  is anyone inspired?  Reach out and talk to a stranger and tell me your story!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Week 2- Susan

Tonight as my wife ran and I walked with a buddy of mine and our dog around the ice-glazed lake behind our apartment complex, I crossed paths with another frequent-walker.  I've probably talked to this sweet lady in passing at least 20 times- she walks her dog (as do we) regularly in the park.  I've known the dog's name for months. . . it's funny how that works.  So many folks will stop and let their dogs sniff each other's behinds and frolic at the ends of their leashes, each will compliment the other's pet, even ask its name- but we never introduce ourselves, it's as if the human beings at the other ends of those tethers are transparent- just there to answer questions about the dog.

Tonight, when my Daisy rubbed noses with little Moonbeam, I said "I've known your dog for some time now and still don't know your name!" and proceeded to introduce myself.  That's how I met Susan- we talked for a short bit and I mentioned Molly, the australian shepherd who lives across the breezeway from us, Daisy's best friend.  Oh yes, Susan knew Molly- but she didn't know that Molly's owner is named Sue.  It was nice to know I'm not the only person who knows more dogs than humans around here!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Survey and Week 1- Evan and Julian

Okay, so I'm just easing into this.  Since coming up with the idea, I've given it a lot of thought- introverts are pretty good at that.  I think it would be great if eventually I could get to the point where I could comfortably (without freaking out the person) introduce myself and ask the individual if they wouldn't mind answering 3 to 5 questions.  They would be like essay questions, broad in scope, and should do a pretty good job summing up the person.  Something like this:

1) Describe your belief system and it's place in your life.
2) Describe your career path, where you've been, where you are, and where you hope it takes you.
3) What are the most meaningful relationships you've had, past and present, and how have they helped shape who you are today?
4)  Describe your dreams, hopes, and goals for the future.
5) If you could share one story from your life with the world, be it happy, sad, funny, or miraculous, what would it be about and why would that be your choice.

Everyone has a story to tell!  The problem is, when I think about introducing myself to someone who doesn't know me from Adam, asking them these questions, maybe even trying to solicit a photo- all within 10 or so minutes so I can post that information on the internet. . . . I can see that coming across as a little freaky.

I'll just start  learn by learning someone's name- that's enough, and maybe ask them to come and visit OFC to see what it's about.  If they are interested and willing to answer the questions above when they come visit the blog, we can all learn about someone in depth.  If enough people become interested in both sharing and learning about other real folks here at OFC, then I would love to interview my future friends with the most intriguing stories and podcast it!

But there I go, getting carried away- at this point those are pipe dreams.  I had countless opportunities over the weekend while shopping and playing fetch with my dog out by the lake.  A really nice elderly couple stopped to watch Daisy running and catching her Frisbee and we made small talk for a few minutes, but I never asked their names.  I've been kicking myself over that, and several other similar opportunities missed.

Baby steps. . . they may have been trapped behind a desk, but my first two acquaintences were met tonight!  My wife and I went to our usual Monday night gym session at the community center.  A nice young guy and gal (high school seniors maybe) were behind the counter working the front desk.  I got up the guts to introduce myself, and now next time I see Evan or Julian, I can greet them by name. . . . and maybe point them toward OFC!