"Wait a minute," you say. "Ben? Coffee with Ben? Wasn't last night your coffee 'date' with the personals ad person?"
Why yes, now that you mention it, it was. So, Ben and I were...
"Ahem," you say. "So? How was it? Was he interesting? Was he cute? Was he even a he? Details!"
Well, first of all, we met at Tully's. Which was actually what prompted my first suspicion that we weren't exactly on the same wavelength - this was a rescheduled meeting, after all, that had originally been going to take place (on my suggestion) at the Still Life. When he (yes, it was a he) suggested a chain coffee shop over several perfectly good independent cafes in the neighborhood, it sounded the first note of dismay.
He wasn't un-cute, but he also wasn't one of my natural types, despite being on the tallish skinny side. He wasn't un-interesting either, but... I think one of the main things we had in common was a tendency to come across as dour when we're merely neutral.
On the plus side, his degree was in Drama with a minor in Physics (how's that for cool?), he was as articulate as I could have wanted (I dare *you* to use 'auto-didact' in casual conversation on first meeting someone), and was delightfully animated when caught off guard enough to forget to be nervous. On the minus side, I think he was stretching it a point to say 'young 40s' unless he meant young-at-heart; I distinctly felt a Boomer/X-er generation gap. I would say somewhere between 45-47, which while not old is definitely on the outside range of where I'm comfortable. Ten years either way is enough to put the brakes on for me, just as a round number - it wouldn't *stop* me if there were other stronger factors of attraction at play, but it does have to go down under 'con' in a straightforward analysis. We didn't seem to share many cultural touchstones. He's from back east (Alabama, Connecticut, Tennessee) originally, and although he's been living out here for more than a decade, there was also that faint, irritating air of 'slumming in the provinces' that once-and-future easterners so often have. Particularly once-and-future easterners involved in the Arts.
So, as Ben and I...
"Wait, that's it? Are you going to see each other again? Well?"
Hmm. Probably not - though he did bow on his exit, and I found it charming rather than affected. As I said to him: I have his number, and he has mine. I doubt I'll be hearing from him, though - and I can't think of anything I'd be doing casually that would be good to invite him along (we really didn't have much in common culturally, as I said). There wasn't enough of a spark for me to set about manufacturing things to do for the purpose of inviting him. So yes, that's it.
After I left Tully's and walked up to my bus stop, I was feeling sort of strange and disconnected, so I phoned Ben up and made him come out to coffee at Aurifice. To get the taste out of my mouth, so to speak. [There's another thing. I can't imagine a relationship with someone who it feels to me would be too old/staid for Aurifice. I can't imagine the person I met at Tully's hanging out at Aurifice - he was way too 'Bellevue' for that.] I felt like I wanted to hang out with someone who actually liked me, and with whom I felt some degree of simpatico.
So Ben and I were talking... ah, finally finished interrupting now? Good. One of the things that we talked about was meeting people. Relative difficulty of same, methodology, etc. Oddly enough, I have never had any problem meeting people. Meeting people I want to see a second time, yes. Meeting people who don't make me want to pitch them off a cliff after five minutes, definitely difficult. Meeting people I don't want to pitch off a cliff who seem to be someone I might be interested in developing an intimate relationship with - rarest of all. But just flat out meeting people - that's pretty easy, for me. Even easier in my post-surgery life than ever.
Part of it may be that I have a nominal interest in just about everything. Even the amazingly dull has the potential to be an indicator of *something* - cultural processes, physical processes; it's data about how the world works, after all. So I'm rarely bored, and nine times out of ten I will at least have basic conversational fodder for idle chit-chat with someone.
I also seem to have a talent for making groups interact smoothly. I'm not sure what to call it, or even how it works - but I have been starting to notice it as part of my analysis of 'what I want to do with my life'. I've been trying for a while to catalog things I'm good at that are useful in the work place, and something that was mentioned at the task force last week struck me fairly forcefully. Against all odds, we managed to get through the analysis of 18 courses in three days. Actually, in two days, because the first day was spent venting and getting the kinks out, and we spent the first part of the second day re-analyzing the two classes we'd managed to get through the day prior. Not only did we manage to complete our assignment (when everyone, including myself, was certain we wouldn't make it at the end of day 2) but when we were doing our 'wrap-up' post-game analysis pretty much everyone mentioned how unusual it was that we had all gotten along. Apparently teams like this are often handicapped by internal personality conflicts.
What's so wacky about personality conflicts getting in the way of work? Nothing. Except that it doesn't usually happen to me. It's more likely for me to hear comments like the ones from this task force - things like 'hey, unlike other groups, we all managed to get along on this team.' For a long time I figured it was just random, or I was just lucky to get on well-chosen teams - but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I have something to do with it. I'm starting to have enough self-confidence to think maybe I *do* have something to do with it. I definitely can think of a number of instances last week where I 'translated', for example, between vendor-speak and IRS-speak. Stuff that at the time seemed pretty minor, but in retrospect were the sort of minor misunderstandings that could have (if unresolved) escalated into more serious communications problems.
So what the hell do you call that when you're trying to put it on a resume? It's not 'facilitation' because that's a whole different set of competencies in itself - it might be related to it, and it would certainly be helpful, but it's not exactly the same. Socio-cultural interpreter? Inter-argot translator? Metaphorical information kiosk? Situational encyclopedia? I need something that would go well on a business card that describes this talent, and I'm just at a loss to do it. Physician heal thyself...