Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:02:33 PM EST
When Miguel presented me with the idea of going to the ET meeting a few months ago, I wasn't exactly elated about it. The prospect of travelling to a different country with a hyperactive preschooler just to have lunch with a bunch of socially anxious people talking through their laptops while touching elbows and occasionally peering at one another though yoghurt bottom glasses failed to stir much passion in me. My grudge against ET the vampire of family/couple time certainly didn't make things any better. I wasn't even lured by the thought to see Paris, although I had never been there before... I thought the time was too short to see or do anything at all. I hate being a racing tourist with a checklist more than anything. I wanted to savour Paris, wander around in the streets, buy copies of art nouveau posters and great retro postcards to frame and hang in my house, eat leisurely a large creme-brulee and visit at least a dozen of chocolate and cheese shops. A friendly bed-and-breakfast would fit in there somewhere, too. This one-nighter in a cheapo hotel with trains rumbling under the windows wouldn't even come close, or so I thought. If you can't do it right, why do it at all?
Well, in spite of myself I did end up going, and now I'm back. I didn't buy copies of posters and didn't eat any chocolate truffles. I didn't go to a cheese shop. I got rained on severely on the way to the restaurant conveniently located about fifty miles from the station (at that time I wasn't able to appreciate the reason), and I thought my hair was going to be ripped out and hurled into the murky Seine waters by the wind (and I thought that London was windy). I did eat a large creme-brulee and my monthly allowance of meat in less than two hours, and drank about as much wine. My hyperactive preschooler was happily occupied with little Jeromes (blessed be Ingrid, Jerome's wife, for arranging babysitting, and blessed be Jerome for having us meet fifty miles from the train station and ten meters from the entrance to his flat). He caused me distress only briefly when he came by the restaurant at some point and while demonstrating scooter riding he threw himself into the only puddle on the street.
The company was decent as well, I should say. I didn't see many yoghurt bottom specks, and there was only one laptop on the table... two, actually, one of them a white Apple (Merry's) given with love to her by her husband PeWi, who ensures on daily basis that it runs smoothly and does not deteriorate from lack of use. How thoughtful. The other one was Colman's, of course. He was too far from PeWi to touch elbows with him, which was probably a good thing. I'm not sure how Jerome survived without one that afternoon, but perhaps the thought of having it only ten meters away was soothing enough (forget about the kids!). "So, how do you deal with Jerome living on ET?" I asked Ingrid in the lift.
"I scream", she said. A good method. I will use it more often.
It would be interesting to have the list of the subject that ETs talked about this past weekend. I can only name the ones I was involved in:
Dowsing (for details, ask Helen), 9/11, Katrina, consumption, waste, Mexico, translation, intepreting and other language stuff, why men are bad company during labour, testosterone, conspiracy theories, London pubs (for details, ask Helen), being an ET widow, yoga, life in the US, life in Europe, genes and their influence on personality, the enneagram, infidelity, the Holocaust, Rudolf's report,... I think I will stop here. As you can see, not that much about politics, at least not directly. I think this meeting would be a very good case study comparing men's and women's social behaviour. We talked about it with Miguel on the way home: while the men related to and got to know each other via abstract concepts and discussion about outside events, women went straight to the core, asking questions about each other's life and wanting to learn about the person: who are you? what do you do? do I share anything with you? what do you think of x y z? would I like you as a friend? I do have to admit that I wish I lived closer to many of the people I met this weekend, men and women alike, and yes, I would love to have a few as my friends. I felt at home.
So, in the end, I didn't see much of Paris, just as I had expected. The more I got to know others, the less I was interested in visiting cheese shops (camemberts and reblochons, please forgive me). I realized that Paris will be there the next time I come, but these people might not. Or am I wrong? Where is the next meeting?