Sunday, September 24, 2006

BUS STORY # 6, Part 2 (Dan)

One morning I found my neighbor perched atop the bus stop bench as usual. Monsoon season had just started, so the mornings were cool. He was wearing jeans instead of shorts, and an anorak over his T-shirt. I thought, “That’s different.”

We exchanged good mornings, then I pulled something to read out of my bag and sat down. He looked over and said, “Can I ask you something?” The words were abrupt, clipped, a bit wired. I said “Sure” and wouldn’t have been surprised to hear “What are you doing at my bus stop?”

“Do you work at Sandia?”

“No,” I replied. “I work for one of the local HMOs.”

His face fell a bit.

“How about you?” I asked.

“At Kirtland.” Pause. “I thought you might be an engineer or analyst, something like that.”

“Funny thing. I am an analyst -- a systems analyst for a computerized clinical charting system.”

His face brightened. “That would fit.” Pause. “I can usually tell.”

“So how could you tell?”

He began describing Freud and Jung’s theories of human behavior and their consequent falling out; how Jung’s four archetypes were refined into sixteen variations by Myers and Briggs; how his own independent studies and observations had helped him to hone his abilities to first learn what to observe, then how to deduce from those observations.

“So are you a psychologist?”

He laughed. “I’m in lasers.” He then described his academic career – largely math and physics which were “pretty rote stuff” but gave him access to the university library and independent study courses. He learned German as part of his post-grad requirements – but also so he could read Goethe’s treatises on science unmuddied by English translations. He was sardonically amused by the reactions of most of his co-workers to various observations Goethe had made. Which led him to explain two ways he’d learned to analyze the research workplace: divided among: 1) scientists – playing, mostly; interested in something because how things work is intrinsically interesting; engineers – don’t care how or why something works, let’s just git-r-built; bureaucrats – getting a job in on time and within budget is the true meaning of life (“These are the guys who think if an experiment doesn’t support the thesis, it’s a failure.”); 2) the creative folks – restless and restricted by their job and itching to find a better environment; the vested – curiosity extinguished, comfortably unchallenged, and resistant to change; the retirees – just hanging on for dear life until that pension kicks in.

By this time we’d long since boarded the bus and were rolling down Lomas. We sat together in his usual seat, him with his rucksack in his lap and me with my bag under the seat.

He explained he was pretty much a scientist and creative soul which is why he’d never really found a place he was happy to be working in. But he had a plan. He explained how young men are predominantly given to their masculine side – math, physics; but as he’d gotten older, he could see his feminine side emerging – biology, biochemistry. He wanted to return to Indiana where his wife is from, buy a farm, grow grapes and make wine. He talked about viniculture, climate, and terroir.

By this point, I realized I’d missed my stop on Wyoming. I pulled the cord and ended up walking two blocks back to my intersection. As I was exiting, he stuck out his hand and said “Dan."*

We shook hands. “Later, Dan,” I said, heading for the back doors. I walked to the intersection, pressed the button for the crosswalk, and waited.

“Holy cow,” I said out loud.


*Real name changed.


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