I went to the grocery store today, and after taking the groceries out to my car and loading up, I went to return my cart. I wound up just behind a grocery girl bringing in a long stack of carts from one of the collection bins; I saw her coming and was going to just add my cart to her stack, but I was a little slow and she was off in her own little brown study, so she didn't notice me. So I just tagged along behind her, and the noise of me pushing my one cart was drowned out in the noise of her pushing her twenty or so. When we got back to the actual store, she began jockeying them around, and saw me when she turned around to muscle them from the other side. But didn't really see me, because she was still in her brown study. She didn't look unhappy, exactly, just a little numb to the world. I caught her eye and said cheerfully "you missed one!" and grinned at her as I brought my cart up. And it took a minute, but the study lifted and she smiled like the sun breaking through the clouds, and when she turned away again her shoulders were an inch higher and she actually was looking at the world around her again.
I still haven't really found my own perfect balance between not intruding, and not connecting at all. I don't like the nosy, smallminded busybodiness you often find in small towns, but I don't like the feeling of aloneness and dehumanization you often get in a city of any size, either. I think the trick is to accept the potential loneliness of the city, but overcome it by making your own connections. Like much of the rest of life, though, it just seems like it really shouldn't be as hard as it is.
In mostly unrelated news, I'm starting back to school this Thursday, and starting to get a little jittery about it. Somehow the school managed to forget I already got approved for Stafford loans, so I have to redo all the financial crap again and get a deferment in the meantime, which is annoying (and a little expensive). Thank god running a business = having a cashflow buffer for things like that. Also I'm a little apprehensive about the schedule, and the courseload. OMG it's all five weekdays! What if I have to go out of town? Will Calculus be hard? Or Japanese? Or, against all reasonable expectations, Java for CS Major N00bs? OH NOES!
I'm sure it'll all work out fine.