Odd Little Experiences

I have, every once in a while, an experience that I think belongs in some odd sort of novel, or a strange biography. I attend the University of Texas at Austin, and we have our share of strange folk on and around the campus. On this past Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting on a broad bench on the West Mall, reading a paperback and smoking a cigar. As I was looking up, lost in a cloud of smoke, a passerby stopped suddenly, waved, and sat down nearby. He asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I had to reply in the negative. He didn’t, apparently, speak English, but he managed to ask if my cigar was Cuban, and then communicate that he was from Cuba. The smell of my cigar (“Buen Tobaco!”, were his words) reminded him of home, in his limited English “Lady Cuba”. He talked a bit, but all I could understand was that he was talking about reading. Finally, he removed a sheaf of photocopied papers from his backpack. They had been folded into a crude booklet, and contained poetry, in Spanish with an English translation done by a UT professor. I cannot judge the poetry, though I thought it rather better than average, but he pointed out various poems and I read them while he talked on in Spanish. Finally, he offered to sell me a copy of the poems for three dollars. I wish I had not refused, for three dollars is not much at all, and certainly the experience was worth that. I did refuse, though. He talked for a little while longer, asked about the book I was reading. He then thanked me, shook my hand, and left.

Anyone else have such an odd little moment to relate?

I also go to UT Austin. My first week there, I was walking down Guadalupe to go to class. It was raining, and a small group of “Drag Rats” (the local term for people who hang out on Guadalupe selling stuff or asking for spare change)were sitting under an overhang. I heard someone say “Summer!”
It took me a second to realize one of the Drag Rats was calling my name. He got up and walked over to me.
I looked at him for a second and said “Sammy?”
Back in a Houston suburb, we had gone to elementary and junior high together. We used to talk in English class, and I thought he was a smart guy. In the eighth grade, he threw a desk against a wall and I never saw him again.
Now, years later, he was standing in front of me in Austin. He said he was saving gas money to go to New York City. If I had had time, I would have talked to him longer. I wanted to know what happened in the years since I had seen him last. I had to go to class, though. I wonder where he is now.

The other odd experience that comes to mind happened in a bookstore back home. I had gone to the store to get something to take my mind off a recent traumatic break-up. I was browsing in the psychology section when a guy who looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties came into the aisle and began looking at the books.
He asked what my paradigm was. Thinking this was one of the most original chit-chat starters I had heard,I replied cognitive-behavioral. He asked if I thought biology played any role. I said that I thought biology set the limits of behavior, but behavior could be changed with effort.
We went back and forth a bit more. He explained he was a graduate student in psychology and asked about me. I told him I was a undergrad and planned to go to graduate school in psychology. He said,“You’ll do well” and moved on.
All I could think was “Thank you, random stranger.”
Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. It was a strange but pleasant experience.

I posted this once before, under a “it’s a small world” type of topic.

Anyway- the summer after my 18th birthday, I went mountain climbing in Colorado (this was actually the same week that I first got hit by lightning, but that’s another story). On top of Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain Colorado (and third-tallest in the continental US), I met a fellow by the name of Garon.

We started talking as we both labored for breath, and somehow the subject meandered over to surfing (don’t ask me, I blame the altitude). I asked him where he had surfed, and he said it was over in Singapore, where he’d lived for a while as a kid.

Just on the off-chance, I asked him if he’d known a girl I used to date. She’d lived in Singapore, too, before moving to my high school.

Sure enough, they’d dated in Singapore. :slight_smile:

Small world.