This is us
Last updated 11/14/2018 at Noon
I leaned over to my wife at one point last week, and said, “We’re surrounded by weirdos,” which prompted a discussion about semantics. This is how you keep a long marriage lively, but let me digress for a public service announcement.
I encourage you to get a flu shot. Many other people are encouraging you. It’s important to listen to them.
Last year, I didn’t get a flu shot. It wasn’t an official policy on my part. I think what happened is that I left town during the time I normally start thinking about getting a flu shot. I got distracted, possibly, and then the months went by, and I was sort of embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t had one. I may have lied about it on many, many occasions.
I’m not lying now. I didn’t get a flu shot last year. I feel guilty.
I’m also not lying when I say that there was a time in my life when I didn’t consider flu shots important, when I entertained this fantasy of a few days away from work, happily catching up on movies I’d missed or books I hadn’t gotten around to yet while anxious family members brought me soup, and I slipped in and out of restful naps.
I trust most of you recognize the above as the definition of a vacation, not an illness. Or else it’s a version of influenza that only occurs in Disney movies, and only to chipmunks. Nobody wants to get the flu.
I wised up and got the shot. Except for last year, which, as I said, I have some guilt about.
I didn’t get the flu, but I also trust most of you recognize the concept of herd immunity. I see a fair amount of people every week, even if they tend to be clumped together. Clumped together is worse, in fact.
I shake hands and hug and otherwise interact with other humans all the time, humans whose immune systems are unknown to me. I probably would have survived a bout with the flu. I know some people who might not.
And a lot of them I don’t know, like the weirdoes the other night. There were over a hundred of them, all of us crammed into a space like sardines who really, really liked musical theater. I still saw a few “I Voted” stickers but nothing to suggest any of these strangers had gotten a flu shot.
Going to the theater on a Saturday night in November is playing influenza roulette, so I sat in my seat, recently vaccinated, feeling smug.
This doesn’t justify my language, although to be fair I was whispering about the weirdoes to my wife. And they were weirdoes.
I was just making a point, and she was just chiding me for not being more polite. She thought I was looking for the word “eccentric,” while I suggested I really meant “interesting,” although I really meant “weirdoes.”
And I included myself and my wife in this group, and it was said with affection. We were a self-sorted group, first of all. We were at The Everett Performing Arts Center to see Village Theater’s current production, “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes,” an original musical.
I’m not going to review the production, since it only has a few more days to run (I believe it closes on Nov. 18, but check your local listings) and that’s not my job. I had a good time, and apparently so did all the other weirdoes.
My affection wasn’t for the type of people who like musical theater, because lots of people like musical theater. Musical theater is very popular these days. All the kids are doing it, etc.
It was that we were a bunch of Pacific Northwesterners, and we looked it. We were attending a Saturday-night performance by an elite, professional theater company, but it was November. The lobby looked like a Puffy Coat Convention. The only clothing that looked remotely formal was worn by the actors.
But it was more than hiking boots and blue jeans. There was the rainbow coalition feel of the group, from ethnicity to age, to every kind of facial hair imaginable. There were 70-somethings who looked like they ran marathons in their spare time, and 20-somethings who leaned forward in their seats and seemed only a spontaneous kick line away from hopping onstage.
It was a night at the theater, but I suspected it could have been a night at the tractor pull, too. We just looked like us. I’m pretty sure I could recognize a fellow Pacific Northwest resident on a side street in Madagascar (look for the boots).
I’m not embracing tribalism, especially not in today’s climate. I just noticed the little burst of pleasure I get on occasions like this, when I spot us in the wild. I know my people. I’ve been here for 35 years, long enough to sniff an El Niño from months away, long enough to know when the mountain is out without looking, long enough to know I belong here. I have a puffy coat somewhere.
And after the cast received their well-deserved applause, we all politely filed out of the theater, of course, bundling up against the dropping thermometer. A large group of us reached the intersection at the same time, as the flashing WALK sign told us we had six seconds to cross. Everyone waited for the next light. I don’t want any of these people to get the flu, not ever.