For Weekend Assignment #317: Merry Meetings, I posed the following questions...
Weekend Assignment #317: Merry Meetings
People used to socialize with each other on street corners, at cocktail parties, at club meetings, and in a later era, at shopping malls. These days, however, we seem to do most of our socializing online. Where do you go most often for face time with friends and acquaintances?
Extra Credit: Do you ever hang out with co-workers after hours?
The first of our Quantum Leap adventures, August 1990
There was a time, throughout the 1990s in fact, when I got to hang out with friends in two different but overlapping fan clubs, one for Doctor Who and one for Quantum Leap. The Murray twins, Dimitra C. and I, or some portion thereof, drove to California on a number of occasions to attend conventions and/or interview Quantum Leap's actors, writers, producers, etc. Back at home, Teresa Murray and I used to write, transcribe and edit the club fanzine, The Observer, and (in the early days of the club) process memberships. Eventually the tv show was canceled, and we handed over membership and fanzine duties to the same people who are handling them today, all these years later. Meanwhile, our local Doctor Who club lasted almost exactly a decade before falling apart due to people moving away or losing interest. The last time I saw anyone from the Who club, aside from my friends Kevin and Samantha whom I see every week, was at Linda H.'s birthday party last September.
Those two clubs made most of the 1990s a great time it for me, full of friendship and adventures. During that period my Doctor Who fan experiences also led to my first professional writing credits in a decade, co-writing articles with Teresa for Starlog, and writing the backs of Doctor Who trading cards for Cornerstone. Then it all went away, with me disengaging from Quantum Leap fandom and most of my Doctor Who friends leaving town for one reason or another. So what do I do these days by way of social interaction, aside from the occasional email or instant message, and sending virtual gifts in Facebook to people who are no more than names to me?
This is may sound a little pathetic or misguided, depending on your point of view, but it's the truthful answer. I go to church. Almost every day, in fact.
No, I don't mean that I go to Mass every day. When I was a kid, I was aware that St. Ann's Church in Manlius held masses every morning, but all those weekday masses were, as far as I could tell, meant for and attended by a handful or little old ladies in their pillbox black hats with little black veils. Here in the present, St. Michael's doesn't always even offer masses every single day of the week, and when it does, I'm mostly a no show. I attend on Sundays, of course, and one Saturday a month because it takes place in between the finance and vestry meetings, and on most but not all major holy days. This week, for example, is Ascension Thursday, with an evening mass followed by a pot luck in the Parish Center. I'll be there, assuming I remember!
Here's where we start to get closer to the point of my long-winded answer, because Life at St. Michael and All Angels, as the blog title goes, includes much more than sitting through thirty to ninety minutes, depending on the occasion, of prayers, incense and sermons. I carry the cross or a torch at Mass nearly every Sunday morning, but when mass is over, I'm still on the St. Michael's campus (or, as Father Smith sometimes jokingly calls it, "the plant"). By 11:30 AM or so, Kevin and I are sitting at one of the tables near the front of the Parish Center, usually chatting with Jan or Mary or both, and perhaps a few other people. I'm drinking an Arnold Palmer, having "invented" the mixture of ice tea and lemonade a few years before learning at Coffee Hour that the combination was already well-known, and named after a famous golfer of a generation ago. I probably have a few cookies on a napkin, having rationalized that anything eaten at Coffee Hour doesn't "count" with respect to dieting. And around the table we're talking about, well, any number of things, from vampire novels to the biology of sociopaths, from collectibles to call center jobs, from specialty knitting needles (and I don't knit, at all) to the Purple Conspiracy. While all this is going on, people are asking me to take pictures of some person or object, and sometimes we have to table our private conversations in favor of a presentation on immigration issues or the plight of poor people in Haiti or Guatemala or elsewhere. Maybe instead there's a bake sale that week, or a bazaar with goods from around the city and around the world. And most weeks I'm touching base with Father Smith or Pat Miller about some job-related point of information - because St. Michael's is also where I work part time, the only job I have at the moment.
Father Smith admires his cake as the Coffee Hour crowd sings Happy Birthday to You
That's where the rest of my weekly socialization comes from, aside from Coffee Hour on Sundays and watching tv with John at home. Most weekdays I stop by sometime in the afternoon, check in with Nancy or Alicia, the Parish Administrators, and say hi to that day's office volunteer. As I put in a few hours of work, people stop by to drop off or request bags of food, to get a key and permission to use the library or practice the organ, to drop off and pick up notes and mail for various church organizations, and to arrange for weddings or funerals. Father Smith may be around, depending on the time of day and day of the week, in which case I usually try to grab a few minutes to consult with him about one thing or another. I might ask Nancy about her foot surgery, or chat with Mary B. about Syracuse weather or Les S. about First Magnus, or Jim P. about whether we owe him money to fill in a grave. One volunteer drills her grandson in his spelling homework every week in the room next to my office. I listen with interest, even though that child, who has seen me every week for 11 months, has never yet said hello to me.
But what the heck. It's all good, a chance to interact with people who are mostly older than I am, and a few who are younger, in service of a local institution that tries to serve God and our neighbors around the world. Is it any wonder that I mention St. Michael and All Angels Church just a little too often in this blog?
Oh, and yes, I do spend at least a little time with Father Smith, Pat, Alicia or Nancy when I'm not working, but most of it, you guessed it, is at church! I did attend a church outting to a Sidewinders game with Father Smith once, though.