Once (a jerk, always a...) is Happenstance, Twice is Coincidence
As with many folk, I like to think that I react appropriately in most social situations and not come across as an obnoxious boor. Sometimes the situation just gets the better of you.
Once a week I travel down to the land of freedom, usually using a combination of bicycle and public transit. An only-for-motor-vehicles tunnel along the route prevents anyone from riding a bike the entire distance. The bus portion of the trip is a great way to catch up on podcasts. The customs officials on both sides of the border have asked bicycle riders to not wait in the line of cars, so riding a bicycle can sometimes even be faster than driving.
The transit buses have fold-down hitches in front, which allows each bus to carry two bicycles. Most days I'm the only one to use this hitch and have an uneventful ride. One day another bicyclist rode up and asked if I was going to Tsawassen. There was no problem about space. He was inquiring to see which of us would disembark first, so we could figure out the proper order to load the bikes.
Put the podcast on hold and took out the earphones off for this brief interchange.
The other cyclist noticed and commented on the fact that I was riding a Gary Fisher brand of bicycle. He mentioned that he used to ride the trails of Mount Tam with Gary Fisher, back in the day. While I've never met Gary Fisher, I did know that he is considered one of the "inventors" of the mountain bike. He worked with some other pioneers to convert Schwinn clunkers into rugged two-wheelers that could handle the trails of Mt. Tamalpias in Marin County, California.
Since we were the only two sporting helmets and Lycra, we were automatic bike brethren. My knowing a bit about the modern history of mountain bikes cemented the bond. Kept the headphones off as we boarded the bus, sat down across the aisle from my new acquaintance, and we continued the conversation.
He started telling me about an adventure resort he used to run in Baja California. Along with mountain biking, the resort offered its guests the opportunities to go surfing, wind surfing, and kayaking. It seemed appropriate for me to mention that a woman I used to work with at the New Games Foundation started an ocean-kayaking tour company for whale watching in the Gulf of California.
We discussed kayaking for a while, and then he told me about a group he was associated with that provided opportunities for paraplegic veterans to surf the waters of Hawaii. He described how cool it was to assist these people with a combination of modified surfboards and trained volunteers so they could ride the waves. I mentioned that I used to have a housemate who did similar work with a group called Environmental Traveling Companions. At the time the bay area branch of ETC focused on helping special-needs folk go on white water and cross-country ski trips.
We continued, and it was surprising how many things we had in common. At some point I realized that I was coming off as a bit of a jerk. I imagined the inner dialogues of the other passengers that were forced to listen in on our conversation. They were surely thinking to themselves, "Man, this guy can't shut up and let it be. No matter what the other person says, he has to chime in with an 'I know someone who does that, too.'"
I was trying to be polite, and also trying to not sound like an egomaniacal, me-too compulsive liar of any topic that came up. For a while, I even thought I was doing a pretty good job.
My new friend described how he worked as a motivational speaker and team builder for various organizations. I downplayed my role as a trainer with the New Games Foundation and that I had written a couple of books on games that involve cooperation and team building.
It's hard to fully participate in a conversation when one's inner voice is screaming, "Shut up! Just shut up and let the man talk. Let him recount his adventures without having to chime in and sound like you are trying to one-up him."
We (well, he) went on to talk about how he used to travel to different cities putting on workshops. I took a small bit of pride in not mentioning my four-month, twenty-thousand mile jaunt across the US way back when, stopping in a different city every weekend to meet, train, and play with sixty new participants in a series of two- and three-day workshops.
Thought I had a handle on things (and had gotten over coming across as a modern-day Baron von Munchhausen) when he mentioned an old Clint-Eastwood, Dirty-Harry film. He mis-named the movie The Dead Game.
It was not even close. No amount of pre-frontal-corxtex inhibition could have prevented my response. My inner "just be quiet" was no match for what poured out of my mouth before I could stop it.
I blurted, "No, the movie was called The Dead Pool. I went to high school and served in student government with the co-star of that movie, Evan Kim."
"Yeah, yeah, The Dead Pool," he replied. "That was the movie. Evan used to come down to my resort in Baja with his brother, Eric."
Well, of course, I also knew Eric. Even helped him rebuild the engine on a VW Bus that he used to own in high school.
My newfound friend's stop was coming up. I pointed out that he had an uncanny ability to mention things to which I could relate. His response was to admit to being somewhat of a shaman, and that this sort of thing happens to him all of the time. That disclosure was enough to break the spell. Never followed up on tentative plans to have lunch together.
Is this some vague proof of the multiverse? I don't know. Am taking notes so I'll be better prepared when I meet this guy again.