I recently ran into an old friend at a party. He’d been out of town for almost a year so when I saw him I was surprised and pleased to meet him there. These sorts of situations used to give me a lot of trouble. I’m a rather shy person and I’ve always carried myself with a detachment specifically designed to ease difficult social encounters. Constant social interaction worked fine but if I didn’t see someone for a while (for whatever reason, even the ones beyond our control) I might be more hesitant to interact with them when I saw them again. I might not even say hello if it had been a really long time. I felt uneasy about how awkward it was that it had been so long and that I’d been slack about keeping in touch, etc etc. I realize now that being friendly is something I can do pretty well, not just in a polite sense but as a way to network with people. And in Madison the network is almost always just a few steps away from someone you know (or from your own self) and now when I see someone I haven’t in a long time I feel like focusing on making the best of the fact that, yes indeed we did know each other for whatever reason and now here we are and lets take a moment to figure out what it’s all about.

The person at the party also seemed pleased to see me. This is someone who prides himself on his ability to talk to just about anyone and make a good impression. After about 3 minutes he was shifting his eyes when I was talking. After 5 minutes he was visibly uncomfortable. I was telling him about the last year of my life where lots of thing happened–and folks, I’m not a blabber and if I don’t think something would be interesting to someone I don’t tell them about it, so I was doing my best to cut to the chase in this conversation. I wasn’t giving him my 3 hour explanation of having a foster child, just the 2-3 minute overview. But this person was somewhere else, or at least really wanted to be somewhere else. I had to suppress a snort when he found his opportunity to walk away when someone else recognized him. Just as I wondered about myself and my ability to be polite–which has increased to a point where I’m genuinely interested in finding out what other people have to say–I always had my doubts about this person’s actual motivation. In the years we’ve known each other, his ability to fake interest has all but vanished while my ability to stand everyone has increased.


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