Sunday, April 10, 2016

Monkey Mind

I can't say I'm special. Everyone is special. Just like everyone else.

But I try to notice things. Goofy things. Even my own goofy things, my own goofiness. But especially yours. It's like a hobby.

If there is one thing I'm really good at, it's keeping track of inconsistencies. Even my own, I must say, though I'm a bit slow on the uptake of the latter if you will. All that lack of perspective, viewing from the inside, emotional involvement, vesting. And so on — you know it too.

It could be due to my upbringing, plus a few natural predispositions. I won't go into my family life except to say that I think there is a connection. One of my parents was erratic, tempestuous, threatening, blustering, contrite, bullying, repentant, immature. Like a typical alcoholic, but without the alcohol. So I had to keep a sharp lookout on the moods, and the clues about when the next eruption might be rolling into the station. For self-preservation.

Pattern-matching is important, and inconsistencies matter in a world like this. It's like weather forecasting, or you could say whether forecasting. Whether this, or whether that, today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. Maybe it will blow over, subside, or build up to something terribly ugly day after tomorrow. Without paying attention and developing the right forecasting skills, a person is totally clueless, and survival is a less likely outcome. And I was alone.

My sibling didn't come along until eight and a half years after I did, so I really, really needed to be on top of this game. So I notice things.

I'm not highly social. I am socially inept. Partly I don't care, partly I can't. I don't do it well, but I have some skills. It's akin to mind reading. I can read people if I care to, even people I've never met before. It's a matter of opening up and letting the broadcast be received. Everyone broadcasts but usually the broadcasts aren't worth receiving, except sometimes.

Starting a job, meeting your boss, your co-workers. Checking out a potential landlord. Meeting someone at a party — Maybe she...? Maybe he...? Maybe they...? Maybe now, maybe later, maybe not. File the mental notes for reference. First impressions count. They are fresh and clear and the signals are all there, waiting to be swept up by the armful and stuffed into the sack of memory, in case.

So, as I said. yesterday. Nothing much around here surprises me any more. And that's true.

Just seconds before I was to step into the shower, I found that the water was off. Thirty seconds before that, the water was not off. If I'd been only a little faster yesterday, I would have been in the shower, wet and soaped, and then the water would have gone off. They normally don't warn you, they just do it. It wasn't the city this time.

This time it was the owners of this place. They are doing some remodeling. They are running late. They should have had the apartments ready I guess two days ago, but they blew it. I imagine that they have tenants waiting at the door to move in. They said I'd have new neighbors last week. But no. Things aren't done yet. So they have been working both days and evenings, up to nearly nine at night, so the niceties of planning and courtesy have to run thin. They had work to do, had the work bubble up to the top of the stack, had the workers on hand, and the fittings, and went for it. Which included shutting off the water because they needed to, which left me without the possibility of bathing. And by luck and by luck only, I wasn't wet and soapy.

And that dismayed me in a minor way, as it does, but did not surprise me. It happens.

Sometimes it's the local government shutting off power or water to whole sections of the city. They just do it and then later it's over and you continue with what you were up to at the time it happened. Which is why I wash in parts.

First wait for the shower water to warm. Then step into it and rinse. Then wet my hair and soap it and rinse. Then repeat. Then wash and rinse my torso, rapidly. Then lower. Then, if the water continues to run and still happens to be hot, or at least passably warm as it is someplaces no matter how long you let it run, keep rinsing and enjoying the feeling because now it's possible. Following a wash and a rinse, all over, the rest is gravy. By then if the heat runs out or the water does, it's all over anyway but the towelling.

But before then it's a crap shoot. So it pays not to fully commit — wash this, rinse this. Wash that, rinse that. A bit at a time, so you're not all-in, completely soaped, blind, slippery, and screwed. It works so far. I'm ready for surprises, and so they don't surprise me. Much. You never know.

Roll with it is a good approach.

Like crossing the street yesterday after lunch at Place Number One, on the way to Place Number Two for dessert. The bus came, and slowed, but seemed to have an aversion to the near curb. It stayed out in the middle of the street. It blocked traffic. Hmmm.

Maybe I could cross now? No wait. Wait a bit. Yes. Definitely. Traffic backs up behind the bus. The other traffic can't squeeze around it. Check the bus. Still there, still stationary, good. Make my move, across the street quickly threading a path between stopped vehicles. Safe. I made it. I'm on the far side and then the bus pulls forward, accelerates, frees up the street, and all the traffic moves again but now I'm across and it doesn't matter. Fine.

Inside Place Number Two there is a bit of hubbub. A bit. But it is real. Real hubbub. Something about the street, what is going on in the street. The one I just crossed. There is an issue.

Of course it is a slow day at Place Number Two or they wouldn't notice anything at all because it is a small thing, but still a thing because business is light. Monkey mind at work. If you don't have anything to do, you do something anyway. Little things become big. Like that motorcycle parked in the street. I didn't notice it, but the owner of Place Number Two goes out to see why the traffic is slow and sees a parked motorcyle. Ah, so. A parked motorcyle then. No wonder.

Owner returns inside, alerts staff. Staff of Place Number Two go outside with owner to observe parked motorcyle. Owner of other place next door comes over to talk about it. It's a police motorcycle! Policeman is inside third business. How interesting. Something. Definitely. Unusual. No parking in street, here, but there is a motorcycle parked. In the street. And it's a police motorcycle. Most unusual. Most surprising. An event. On a slow day.

Meanwhile, I eat a piece of pie. The pie is my big event of the day, and the rest? It takes more than suddenly missing water or a parked motorcycle to surprise me any more, but the pie is always there, always surprisingly good. The rest I don't really care about any more.

Just roll. Just roll with it. Whatever it is, it will be over soon and the monkeys will move on to the next thing. At least I had two liters of bottled water in my apartment. I heated the water and was able to wash my hair and face and that was good enough. No need to be surprised or startled or annoyed or make a fuss. Roll. Only roll. I turned an aborted shower into a smaller but adequate cleaning event and got on with it, had lunch, had pie, saw a motorcycle parked in the street and got over it. Without being stranded, wet and fully soaped, in the shower.

For that, let us say, I'm pleased. That was enough excitement. Close enough to a close call to rate a score. I call it five out of a possible five. The rest I didn't need to get excited about. Let the monkeys range elsewhere. I'm at ease over here.

But that is also what expat life is like. Just like it is everywhere else. Full of monkeys.

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