November 27th, 2017
About twenty-five years ago, I had a friend named Mike Macy. He and his wife had their child in the Waldorf School of Milwaukee at the same time that Karin and I had Hans in that school. Our children were in the same class, and we sometimes met at school functions. Eventually, Mike and his wife moved away, and I lost track of him. However, for a while, we had a number of interesting conversations.
Mike had worked overseas, I believe with the State Department. For a time he was stationed in India. Mike would tell me stories about his life there. I have forgotten most of his tales, but one sticks in my memory.
Mike bemoaned the fact that in India punctuality was an alien concept. While he was working there, Mike would make appointments for meetings with various Indian officials. Typically, the Indians would show up late, or perhaps not at all. Mike told me of one incident when an Indian bureaucrat arrived very late for a meeting, and Mike asked him in exasperation why he was so tardy. The Indian calmly explained to Mike that he had unexpectedly met an old friend on the way to the meeting, and that he simply had to stop and talk with this man. He couldn’t just blow the guy off. In fact, the Indian and his old friend had tea together, and the Indian felt that he could not leave his companion until the conversation had run its course. Mike was dumbfounded by the man’s story, and the Indian could not understand Mike’s puzzlement. What could be more important than spending time with a friend?
Yesterday I met Rob in the produce section of the grocery store. He is an ER physician, and his schedule is erratic. We literally bumped into each other at the store. Rob and I have known each for a long time. We are close friends, but we hadn’t been together for nearly a year. We stood around, blocking the bins of lemons and kiwis, for the better part of an hour. Other shoppers looked at us with a certain amount of disdain. We were impeding the flow of their shopping. We didn’t care.
Rob said to me, “We really ought to get together. Do you want me to stop by this afternoon? Or do you want to come to my house for coffee? Maybe we could go to that Mexican restaurant again, wherever that was.”
I actually had plans for the entire afternoon. I was going to Kenosha to get some personal effects from somebody’s impounded vehicle. Then I planned to go to a demonstration in favor of the DREAM ACT and immigrant rights. The demonstration was to be held in front of Paul Ryan’s office in Racine.
I thought for a moment. If I put off meeting with Rob, then we would never hook up. Some things need to be done immediately or they don’t get done at all.
I asked Rob, “What time will you be home?”
He replied, “In an hour and a half.”
“I’ll be at your house then.”
I met Rob at 1:30 PM. He made tea for us both, and we sat in his kitchen. We talked, and we talked, and we talked some more. No one checked the time. I only realized that it was getting late because I saw the sun going down through his window.
We accomplished nothing during the three hours that I was there. We solved no problems. We just told each other what was in our hearts. We listened to each other. We joked sometimes. We grieved sometimes. We were just there for each other, as completely as we could be. That needed to happen. That had to happen.
Today I went to Kenosha and emptied out the impounded car. I will surely go to another demonstration in the near future. Some things can wait a while. Some can’t.
I understand the Indian.