Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Smallest Gestures

Thom Yorke--"Nice Dream (live)" (mp3)

So, I'm sitting in the parking lot at the Rave movie theater on Friday night, waiting to pick up my daughter and her friend after their second viewing of Twilight. I'm kind off in a side lot, parked in a row behind a sweet little BMW convertible, a 2-seater. And, of course, as all of the groups of people begin to file out from the 7ish movies, I'm wondering idly who is driving that thing.

An asshole, I'm pretty sure. It's too well-kept, too flashy, a bit too-middle-life-crisis for my taste, but then I'm in a '95 Camry with darkened ghetto windows that have half peeled off and two broken front doors that can only be opened from the outside, so maybe I'm just jealous.

I see the couple long before they get to the car. They're about my age, maybe a little younger, both are casually well-dressed, him in pressed jeans. She's wearing dark pants and a light blouse and a kind of rugged lightweight winter coat, and is a attractive woman. I don't think they're married; I'm not sure why. Sometimes you just get that sense. He unlocks their doors with his key button about 30 feet from the car and walks to his side. And then here's the odd thing: just before she opens her door and gets in, she looks back at me and smiles.

Now, there is nothing more to be made of this than what was there. It was a smile--not a come on, not an "I wish you were him," nothing at all like that.

But, you know, people don't have to smile, and many of them don't. I feel kind of like Holden Caufield saying this, but when she smiled, 'It killed me.' I just like the idea that there are people whose immediate reaction when they see another person is to smile. I hope I'm like that. Or can become like that.

Because the alternative is repellent. Do you ever walk down the hall of your office and encounter a colleague that you never know whether he or she is going to make eye contact let alone smile let alone respond in any way if you greet him or her? I mean, really, what the hell is up with that?

Give me the stranger any day who, though about to get into a very nice car and probably finish off the evening in some wonderful way, glances my way and probably sees a father sitting in a dark parking lot on a Friday night who would rather be doing a million other things but who is waiting for his children to come out of a movie, and with an immediate feeling of sympathy or empathy, smiles. I've thought about that smile for days, even though I can't quite remember the woman who did it and had to make up details.

The smallest gestures are the ones that matter; the big ones are for everyone to see. Hers, well, let's face it, she doesn't even know if I saw it.

Thom Yorke's live performance is from one of Neil Young's Bridge Benefit concerts.


Anonymous said...

I think it's a southern thing.

Billy said...

I like to think I'm one of those people who gives the world more smiles than frowns, but then I figure I'd best not rush to pat myself on the back, since I never actually get to see evidence of this.

Can I just tell you how much I love the sentence where you confess to making up the details about this woman? For me, that one sentence kicked everything up an extra notch.

Anonymous said...

It's not just a southern thing. Maybe it's a southern thing to be self-congratulatory.

Billy Bob said...

I'm guessing first anonymous and second anonymous are not the same anonymous.

jordy said...

I like that. I always felt the same way.