Saturday, May 17, 2008

Five minutes

I usually keep quiet when I travel, not having inherited my mother’s proclivity for comfortably talking to strangers. She is always ready with a smile, and is seemingly willing to hear anyone’s life story. Me, I prefer to keep to myself, avoiding talking to strangers unless absolutely necessary. Cab drivers hear my destination when I get in and a “thank you” when I get out. Seat mates on the plane usually only hear my voice when I order my hot water with lemon. When I travel, it becomes even more evident that I am closer to “introvert” than “extrovert” on the Myers-Briggs test.

But the other night, upon arriving at my destination upstate, the cab stand set me up with a shared ride. It was late, and there were only two cabs and a handful of people who needed them. I got the impression that this was pretty standard procedure for this town. I knew my destination was just about five minutes from the station, so I actually started the conversation, breaking the slight tension that came from the unexpected share. I could talk to a stranger for five minutes...

When I told the woman that I was visiting the area to hear my boyfriend sing a concert (rehearse for a concert, technically; I had to leave before the performance), we of course got to talking about opera. An art professor at a college upstate, she confessed that she’d never been to an opera, stating that she knew she’d have to go alone if she ever went. We talked about the Met at the Movies program, and she seemed to like the idea of breaking herself (and hopefully a friend or two) in that casual environment. She then went on to say that she had always been kind of attracted to opera, mostly because of the idea that it is a synthesis of so many art forms; she even mentioned Wagner’s idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total/integrated/complete artwork.” Although she couldn’t remember the German word (neither could I), she said, “opera was the original multimedia, don’t you think?”

Yeah, I absolutely do. It was one of the ideas that made me see opera in a different light once I started studying music in college. Thanks for the reminder, stranger.

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