May 22nd, 2008

summer reading

Is this Irony or Something Else?

On the bus yesterday morning, I was just getting the iPod cranked up when someone came into my field of vision and said, "I don't know if you remember me..." I looked up and there was a person I last saw when I was a month or two away from giving birth to my daughter. In other words, it's been a number of years. She worked for my company until her second pregnancy turned out to be twins and the various complications got to be so bad that she was put on bed rest. When the twins were born, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom for awhile because the reality of both spouses working outside the home with three very young children in the picture would have made life far more difficult than it had to be. She had come to work here shortly after I had, and in one of those weird twists of fate, was married to someone my best friend went to high school with and knew pretty well. For awhile, there was a small clique of us that had all known one another and been friends in some context before coming to work here, so we socialized and supported one another quite a lot both at work and outside of it. Then, one by one, life events happened for each of us - marriages and pregnancies and divorces - and we drifted off into other spaces, other lives.

It was great to catch up with her for the space of that bus ride, even though it felt like I was having some surreal out-of-body experience when I learned her first child (I still remember her being pregnant with him - it didn't seem like that long ago!) is a teen-ager who's nearly done with high school.

It was with no small amusement that I arrived at work yesterday to find the ice machine was out of order. You see, for a number of years the office had no ice machine and it was one of those things she just couldn't comprehend when she worked here: hundreds of people were drinking water all day, with no ice machine to help keep it chilled. She put together a petition asking for an ice maker and even got people to pledge to share in the cost, then took the petition to the office's upper management. That machine is now approximately 15 years old and it's been faithfully dispensing crushed ice and optional chilled water to the masses for all that time. It's a very noisy thing, and often people have wondered if there's not some new technology available that would allow the creation of ice without a constant noise so loud that it makes conversation uncomfortable, if not impossible, while in its vicinity. But it's hardly ever broken down and even with the noise, it's been so dependable that it's become just some object one takes for granted and doesn't think much about.

Over the years, as I've held my cup under the dispenser waiting for the ice to drop, I've thought of her. If I'd thought of it yesterday, I would have told her that the machine she worked so hard to get installed is still here. It's a little legacy of convenience that perhaps only 2 or 3 other people in the office even realize is there because of her efforts.

I don't know what it is that the day I ran into her after so many years was the same day the machine broke down so thoroughly that an outside repair person is required to come in to fix it (expected arrival: Friday).

Is that just life? Irony? Or perhaps just more proof that truth is stranger than fiction?