A few weeks ago I’m walking down Pico, headed toward a Starbucks, when this woman walks up beside me, asking a mailman if he’s got Triple A Plus. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Los Angeles, this means I’ve seen this woman in three different areas that are not close to each other at all. Well, it’s really about five miles, but by Los Angeles standards that’s quite a distance. Nobody walks to Pico from the Arclight! She’s got to have this city mapped out, with shifts in certain areas. I wonder how much she makes a day. And maybe she really does drive a car that she fits with a boot.
But how many times am I going to run into her in different locations in Los Angeles? Is it supposed to mean something? Are she and I supposed to go on a road trip together, or something?
The summer before college, UT has a freshman orientation. You go live in Jester dorm for a couple of days and get used to the campus, figure out how to register using TEX, and decide what kind of classes you want to take. You also make your first group of friends, so that on your first day you don’t climb the tower. You actually know someone’s first name.
I’ve forgotten the name of my Freshman Orientation advisor, but I’ve never forgotten her face. I think her name was Alex, but I’m not sure. Alex was very cool in a Janeane Garofalo way, and in fact looked a lot like her. She was warm and friendly and really funny and I thought it was very nice of her to tell us about UT and hang out with us. I mean, she was paid to do it and it was her job, but it was still nice of her to do it in a way that wasn’t snotty. She told me she volunteered at the Health Center, answering phones to set appointments. She also worked on the Cactus, UT’s Yearbook, and since I had just finished a two-year high school yearbook stint, assistant editor for my senior year, Alex asked if I’d be interested in joining the Cactus when I got to school. After all, the office was right next to my dorm. And I’d be in an actual group, meeting more people! So, I signed up for Yearbook.
Yeah. Double major in Drama and deaf education, yearbook staff, Toad the Wet Sprocket t-shirt, living in a freshman girls’ dorm, knowing absolutely nobody, I was all set to rule the school.
My schedule — both school and rehearsal — quickly dictated that Yearbook was never gonna happen. Never. I think I went to one meeting and never returned. I didn’t see Alex, and figured she’d faded away.
I had a steady boyfriend who was driving up from Katy almost every weekend to see me. And with the schedule I was under, the course load, everything going on at once, pretty soon I got sick, and then took some antibiotics, and then, well, I ended up having to call the health center.
“Hi. Um… this is… um, I think I need to see a nurse. I mean, a gynecologist.”
“Well, no, I know. I mean, I should. I need to.”
“Is this an emergency?”
“Well, it’s like… um… well, I’m sort of itchy, and like, sex really hurts. Like, a lot. But I only started having sex, so I really don’t know, and maybe it’s because sex just hurts, but this is like a different kind of… hurt… so… and the itching… but I’m not sick, it’s like… something’s wrong.”
And then, after a really long silence, I hear, “Pam?”
“Yeah, I thought that was you.”
I knew the voice was familiar. That semi-Janeane sound. “Oh. Heh.”
“Yeah, so let’s get you in here, pronto.”
“Okay. I kind of want to kill myself now.”
“I think you’ve got your first yeast infection.”
She was right. [And screw you on the TMI. I’ve had to live with this for years. You can suffer through it for a minute.]
So. Years pass. I see Alex every once in a while, walking through the west mall. I’d wave, she’d wave back.
Two years ago, or maybe three. I’m not sure, it was a little while ago. I’m standing in line at the Los Feliz Three to get movie tickets, and standing next to me, purchasing her own tickets, is Alex.
And this is when I do my thing so spectacularly it takes your breath away.
“Hi! Oh, you don’t remember me.”
“I’m sorry. Do I…”
“UT! We went to UT, and you were my orientation advisor, and then I bailed on you at the yearbook, but then you totally diagnosed my yeast infection!”
“How ARE you?”
“I’m fine.” She, at this moment, understandably takes a few steps back.
“Do you live around here? That’s so crazy. So do I!”
“I live, you know, around.”
“Gosh, so many Texans here.”
“Yes. Well, it was great seeing you.” [understood: “YOU CRAZY PERSON.”]
So. Last month. I’m tutoring at a high school in Silverlake. We’re in the teacher’s lounge between classes getting a cup of coffee when… Alex walks right past me to go sit at her own table of teachers. And all I could think was, “Of course you work here.”
I mumbled out this humiliating story to the girl sitting with me. “You should totally go talk to her!” she said.
“Are you kidding me? She will file a restraining order.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. You would think she’d remember you, with all the things that happened to you two.”
“I think the moments were always more monumental for me than they were for her. It was my freshman orientation. My fears and anxieties. My… yeast infection.”
“Look, she’s sitting with a guy wearing a UT hat.”
“I’m going to sit on my hands, now. Please don’t let me go over there.”
This UT instinct, this absolute need to bond over the city of Austin and all things Bevo, I can’t really explain it, but I want you to know that it happens no matter what.
Last Sunday night I was the Fiona to Dan’s PTA as I accompanied him to the Writer’s Guild Awards, where he was being honored for his heroic strike efforts. We sat at a table with a lovely view of the stage, and Dan sat between me and his editing partner Greg, a man who grew up in Austin and also went to UT.
So, Morgan Freeman’s on stage, and he’s delivering a speech introducing someone who’s about to get a lifetime achievement award. And I’m thinking to myself, “Wow. I’m at my first black tie event. It’s an awards ceremony, for a guild I’m a part of. And everybody’s so pretty. And look! We’re right next to the table for The Office. And Dan and I look like prom dates.”
And this is when Morgan Freeman said, “… and he attended both The University of Texas and Columbia…”
I don’t know what he said after that. Because as Greg started clapping, I threw the hook ’em sign and went, “WOOOO!”
And this is when all of the room, including Morgan friggin’ Freeman, turned to look at me. And as Dan’s head dropped to his chest, I turned to him and immediately stammered, “You know I can’t help it and I didn’t mean to do that and it’s some kind of instinct in my gut or something because I would never do that normally and I don’t know what happens to me when someone says Austin and ohmygodi’msosorry.”
And Dan said, “Oh, I know you can’t help it. Trust me. Believe me. I know you have no control over that at all.”
I can’t keep concluding every essay I write on this site about how I shouldn’t leave the house, but come on. What else can I say after all of that?