Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A still moment in a crazy world

Think about your normal day.

How often do you check your e-mail? How long do you spend in traffic, sitting at red lights? You drink coffee, you store your lunch in the company fridge (or go out to eat). Do you carry cash or rely on your debit card? You sit on a computer, you listen to music, maybe watch some youtube videos.

All these little things about our day that we think nothing of, but consist of so much.

Today my average day was jerked to a halt. Now, my average day isn't the average American's day. I wake up anywhere between 8 am and 11 am. I ride my bike down the steepest hill in Corvallis to work on the busiest street. I spend six hours making coffee, food, and chatting with customers, usually while playing my favorite music. Everything has a process, everything has a flow, and everyday is usually the same.

That is, until the power went out.

Oh how easily we forget what our lives would be without electricity...

The music [literally] jerked to a stop, the coffee stopped brewing, the credit card machine went black, and it seemed as though everything stood still.

We couldn't work the register. The wi-fi internet went out (for those with enough battery saved on their laptops). We couldn't sanitize the dishes. We couldn't grind or brew any coffee and we couldn't open any fridges for fear the delicate balance of health-code temperatures would rise.

But surely this was just a passing thing? Something that would turn back on within minutes?

News came that the power was out down the street. The power was out on campus. The power was out all over town.

Stop lights were out. Campus was pitch black. Businesses closed up. And my one could charge their electronic devices.

The power outage continued, and we had to turn away customers without cash and offer only pre-made items up for sale. People took their bike-lights into the bathroom in order to see the toilet. Some who were taking advantage of our wifi mulled around, walking inside and outside and muttering how bored they were. One customer even said, "My God, I'm reduced to reading the newspaper."

Thirty minutes went by. Then an hour.

It was so quiet. The chattering had hushed. Once a word was spoken it couldn't be taken back, it bounced off the walls and into the coffee shop for everyone to hear. The usual buzzing of everything around us could no longer cushion our voices.

Soon my co-worker and I had nothing left to do. And it just became natural for us to sit down, as if we didn't work there.

I don't know if the people that were in there were stranded, wasting time, or just had nothing else to do, but they just stayed and sat. Soon we were all talking, brought together by this common bond of bewilderment without electricity. If I were camping, or out at Boundary Creek or Indian Creek, I would have no problem. But something about being in the middle of a city without electricity makes everything lose order.

After I let my mind race through survival mode, I let myself just be. And we all just kind of sat there, people who see each other every day and exist in a symbiotic relationship; the coffee shop and the customer. Comrades in our routines, living as complete strangers.

So the wall between the cash register and the customer line was broken down and we talked and just as we came up with new things we would do because of this situation and new ideas of how to go about our day, the lights came back on.

The shop was immediately loud. Loud with the buzzing of electricity and angry machinery pushed out of its routine and abruptly brought back to life. And so we stood up and went back to work. The music came back on, the customers with their credit cards came back in, and the espresso machine hissed with its next creation.

I was sad to see it return.

For five years I worked as a seasonal in the Forest Service spending my summers in back-country guard stations. This time of year I always get an itch to go back to that stillness and silence, but this year I'm not returning. The hour and a half of power outage in the buzzing coffee shop that has become my life was so perfect and simple. I wish more of my days were like that. I was allowed to just stop and take notice. We could all use more moments like that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Woman. Whoa-man.

Middle Fork Trail near Indian Creek in the Frank Church Wilderness
August 2009
All Alone.

I am a runner. I like to run. I may not run everyday, I may not run every week, but it’s in my blood and in my genes and I accept it fully. I may not be as fast as some, but I’m faster than others and it doesn’t matter either way. I’m just another girl, out there, running.

The other day I bought a book on running, specifically for the reason of training for a 10k, half marathon, and eventual full marathon. I bought the book The Complete Book of Running for Women.

It should’ve gone as no surprise that the sixth chapter was titled, “Running Safely.” And it didn’t mean safety from injury; it meant from being attacked.

Do you ever have moments where you have almost an out of body experience? Where you’re put somewhere else and suddenly realize, “Oh wait, that is my life,” before you come tumbling back to earth? Like you forgot your circumstances, your past, your present, and you saw everything for the first time?

I had that when I saw the headline to the chapter. It’s not like I don’t know I need to be safe running. I don’t even walk from my apartment to my car without a game plan about what I’m going to do if some jackass is hiding in the bushes. As freeing as runs are, I constantly have to bring myself back to attention about where I am, what’s around the next corner, if anyone would notice if I was gone. But reading that chapter just reaffirmed, “No, this isn’t a bad dream, this is your reality. You will never be 100% safe because you are a woman.”

And I’m not trying to get all extreme-man-hating-woman-mafia on you guys, but how much does that fucking suck??

A couple months ago I was reading Cunt; A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (per recommendation from my awesome lady friends in Boise) about being a woman in our culture and its influences on our lives on our relationships and our bodies. It is definitely a fierce, woman-power book (as you can tell by the title), but even I was having a hard time reading about how much men suck. Because men don’t all suck. They aren’t all raping, pillaging, thieving, self-serving assholes. The men in my family are amazing, my guy friends are amazing, my boyfriend is amazing. But there are those guys out there who ruin it for everyone.

However, the book had some very valid points. I came to a chapter titled, “The Anatomical Jewel,” where she discusses something as simple as getting on her bike to go to the store, at night, to pick up soy milk. She actually dresses as a man so that no attention is paid to her. Her language may be considered “colorful” for some of you, but she writes,

“I’m fully privy to the reality that my cunt’s presence on my body can inspire people with cocks to attempt to exert their power by attempting to humiliate me. I have no illusions about what happens to women in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” I have seen too many movies, read too many newspapers, watched too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. I know too many people who have been raped. I do not pretend too realistically that I am free to go where I please.”

Now, I may not have agreed with her that everything bad on this earth was because of a man, but where could I disagree with her on this?

Think about this statement once more:

“I do not pretend too realistically that I am free to go where I please.”

I think sometimes I like to pretend I can go wherever I please, because I am an independent, adult woman. However, I forget that I don’t go wherever I please because it is automatically ingrained in me not to go certain places. It is automatically ingrained in me not go certain places alone at certain times of day with or without certain people.

Obviously there is inherent danger in some situations with anyone, male of female, but how many more situations are there present for just female? And I’m living in a country where I’m considered lucky.

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, repeating what everyone has known from the beginning of time, because until recently, women couldn’t go anywhere by themselves.

But I am saying this because I am seriously going to start looking for self-defense classes in Corvallis. (I should mention Corvallis was ranked one of the safest cities in the U.S., but that doesn’t matter. As a woman, my chances are 1 in 4 that I will be raped in my lifetime. I don’t like those odds.)

I want to go running. Running is my release, running makes me feel strong, it is freedom. I want to go on a run by myself and be free. And although I’ll never be fully free, I don’t want to just think about what I would do if someone did jump out of a bush, I want to know what I would do.

And seriously, I mean if I haven’t in the next month come up with a class I’m going to attend, I want all of you to hold me to it. And if you’re one of my rockin’ woman friends (or just a woman who has stumbled across this), I hope you have too.

And if you’re a man-- love the women in your life. Honor them, be good to them, and let them blossom. Let them feel free in a world where they may not be.

And don’t you dare think you’re better than them. You never know if they’ve learned to throw twice their body weight on the floor and hang anyone in their way out to dry.