It’s so gratifying to become effortlessly engaged with a new person, especially when you do not assume upon first meeting to have much in common. I simply strolled into a gallery right before closing time to explore. I peruse in galleries and museums almost as much as I do in shops and department stores. Food for the mind and soul, don’t you agree?
It was such a treat when the owner of the gallery noted my curiosity in his collection of American work. I was introduced to Helen Frankenthaler’s soak-stain technique, the detail in Donald Sultan’s flocking, and Alex Katz’s figurative artistry. Mr. Meyerovich and I fed off of each other’s enthusiasm for art and approach, darting from one area of the gallery space to another to appreciate assorted mediums. We naturally began talking about a wider range of topics, including how birth order affects sibling roles, the power of psychotherapy, and the potential for people to switch careers, finding passion in varied fields within one lifetime. He told me he became an art gallery proprietor (“When I was already older than you are now.”) after a long career as a mechanical engineer.
Then we debated the identity of three subjects in Alex Katz’s catalog just for fun. He challenged me, “Is it the same person here as in there, or is that his son, and this his wife? If it is her, is she older here or younger?” We went on to agree that oftentimes the artist’s story may not be about the model in the painting but about the lines and shape of the hat he is wearing. “Don’t make the mistake of directly questioning an artist about his intention or motivation behind some choices,” he advised me. More often than not, a hat is just a hat.
I felt like we talked longer than those sixty minutes. Our interaction made me think of similar ones I have had in my life. Writing in Starbucks one morning, the neighboring table asked why I turned down the free sample of holiday pastry, making way for a debate about undiagnosed childhood gluten intolerance, that turned into a discussion about blogging, that segued into the San Francisco restaurant scene, and landed on our common bewilderment of Tokyo’s Maid Cafes and their local Flower Boy trend. Or that time I ran into a writer I admired and went from merely introducing myself in the hall to her intense interest in my personal life, and ultimately telling me why I should apply for writing workshops on the East Coast. Spontaneous interactions like these are nothing new to me, but I am always pleasantly surprised when these greatly unexpected conversations come my way.
Sometimes a person just clicks with you. I call it the romance of platonic connection. It is not like when you fall in love or meet an individual you may want to date. This is that moment when you meet someone, man or woman, old or young, whose either humor, values, ideas, insight, or enthusiasm easily clicks with yours. All you want to do is talk with each other. The discussion couldn’t be more free flowing, like it has been waiting for this exact moment to come out. This is the stuff of great conversations. The best thing about it, is this often happens with people who are totally different from us and at the most unexpected times. I call them the Great Un-expectations.
There is that energy in the dialogue that makes your brain feel juiced, your eyes light up, and your attention laser focused. In small ways all around us, sparks are flying, people are chatting, ideas are exchanging, and we are connecting. We have the opportunity each day to meet people. We can have interactions that are affable and memorable. Sometimes the sparks are mere cocktail hour small talk, while others result in social connections. But if someone’s flint strikes against your steel just so, that spark can light tinder, which holds the fire to form a friendship. I do love that spontaneous spark, whether or not more is ignited afterwards. I may not have another chance to run into that retired doctor at Starbucks, or ever come across the writer once more in a different hallway, and that’s okay. I know I will be seeing Mr. Meyerovich again though, as I know I will continue to have these chance meetings with more interesting people now and then. I do not know when, where, or with whom. Not knowing what can happen next… that is the beauty of the Great Un-expectation.