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Stranger 85, Day 85 - Meet Travis and Briana

Stranger 85, Day 85 – Meet Travis and Briana, the “Couple Who Builds On Each Other”

I got up this morning to take my car to get its regular 120K service at the local Toyota dealership. As I was finishing up some other work, I noticed a couple sitting next to me. I was thinking all morning about potentially meeting my Stranger this morning at the dealership. It’d be different than my normalcy. So as I noticed the couple next to me, I decided that today would be the day I would speak to a couple Strangers as part of today’s meet. Though, I would count them as a single Stranger much like I have when speaking to multiple people before.

They happily accepted to be Stranger(s) 85.

Also, our talk was a constant back and forth, so I’m changing up the style to better reflect our meet.

Meet Travis, 28, and Briana, 34

M(e): Who are you?

T(ravis): So, I am a 5th-year PhD student in a neuroscience program.

We get interrupted for a little while as my service advisor comes to tell me some news.

T continues: Male. Obviously. *Haha, yes, obviously.* White male from Ohio. I guess if you want to ask for some personality traits as well what makes me a person.

M: However you want to go.

T: I would say I’m a very curious person. Very compassionate person. I consider myself very open-minded. Very interested to learn about people’s cultures and backgrounds. I’m just kind of curious about life, in general — just kind of like the driving force for me being in science as well.

*I turn to Briana.*

M: Who are you?

B: My turn?

T: She’s a little more shy than me, I think.

B(riana): So, yeah, I’m Briana. Regulatory coordinator in continuing medical education. That’s pretty much it for right now.

T: I can describe her maybe.

M: Describe her, and then, you can describe him.

T: She’s very sweet and a soft-hearted person. She’s very compassionate. I said I was compassionate, she’s very compassionate. She’s the one who keeps me tame and focused, I think. She’s very loving. So yeah, just a very… a great force to have around and keep you balanced.

M: How else would you describe him outside of what he said?

B: He’s doing great.

B: … this is awkward. *Haha, maybe just a little. She’s a little shy.* Yeah.

T: She agrees with me.

B: Yeah, I agree with all his stuff… of what he said about himself.

M: Okay.

T: She’s just more nervous.

M: How’d you guys meet?

B: We met at a Halloween party, sort of. Then, I became friends with his lab mate, and hung out with her a bunch. Then, I met him again after meeting him at the Halloween party through her and other friends.

T: So it was a random, like very disconnected friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, you know? It was a long line and chain of people. We seemingly kept ending up at the same place.

B: Yeah. We were at several occasions together. And then, we started dating and stuff

T: Yeah, so, it was interesting. We met at this Halloween party, but just briefly. She was actually seeing a friend of mine, but he kept saying, ‘Man, I met this girl, but like, she’d be great for you! She’d really be good for you!’ I was like, “oh okay.” So it was this awkward “my best friend’s dating this girl kind of, but he keeps saying, ‘man, she’s great for you!'” *he’s laughing* Okay! So we met, and we all agreed that it’s better for me. *He keeps laughing, and she’s smiling* So it all worked out. We’re still best friends. It’s all good.

M: So, when did you guys meet?

B: That was Halloween of 2015.

T: So just a little over a year ago. It was our first interaction.

M: What were you guys dressed as?

B: At the first meeting? He was the Incredible Hul– Or he was the Sexy Hulk? Slutty Hulk? *Travis is laughing hysterically*

M: The Slutty Hulk?

B: Slutty Incredible Hulk… *Travis is still laughing.*

T: We were an Avengers group. So, let’s just call it that.

B: He was like painted green. And he just had these little shorts on. His best friend, the guy who I dated for a very short time, he painted his whole body green.

T chimes in: Well, no…

B: Well, all the visible parts, I guess.

M: Real best friends…

B: I was supposedly, sort of Cleopatra because I was with one of my friends who was my house mate. He was dressed as Caesar, so I was Cleopatra at that party.

M: So let’s be honest — was it the shorts? *they both laugh, especially Briana* Were you like, “you had me at your shorts.”

T: They were pretty impressive shorts.

B: Yeah, maybe… *she’s laughing*

M: So how long until you guys went on your first date?

B: Between Halloween and our first date?

T: Well, our first date was… Julllyyy?

B: At the sandwich bar?

T: Yes, at the sandwich bar.

B: Sort of. No, yeah… I guess July. So it was sort of… March, but then sort of July. So…

B: It took a long time between the Halloween party and where we are now. We started officially, Facebook officially, dating in August.

M: Oh, well, that’s the only thing that counts really.

T: Yup! If it’s not on Facebook, it doesn’t matter.

B: And then, we went to the same Halloween that the girl who hosted the Halloween party which is one of his friends — she’s from his program. She hosted another Halloween party this year, so we went to the same one hosted by the same girl.

T: … One year. But between the October and August, there was a lot of just like dating casual.

B: Yeah.

T: … spending time together, but that was really us officially dating.

B: … from August, yeah.

M: Well, you’re here at Toyota at 7AM on a Saturday, so I’m going to take it that this is real serious. They say there’s this “airport test”, but I kind of go with the “7AM at Toyota test”.

T: Yeah, I think that’s a fair assumption. *Briana is laughing hysterically next to us* I’ll agree to that.

M: What are a couple of your passions? I’ll let you guys kind of talk…

T: Passions… So, at this point, I’ll make it on the superficial level. I’m passionate about science, obviously. That’s why I do it.

M: And you have a tattoo of it on your arm. *It’s of some chemical bonds, I believe*

T: Yeah, exactly. *He chuckles for a moment* It’s the discovery part. It’s the creativity of coming up with ideas. Testing them. Seeing something for the first time that no one else in the world has seen before. This type of thing is really an intrinsic drive for me to get up everyday and to go to work, and do these things that I do. Keeps me motivated and keeps me focused. On kind of the outer level, I would say discovery is what I’m passionate about. Going a little bit deeper, is more passionate about, significant others. Kind of developing this relationship.

M: Aww. *I look at Briana.*

T: Well, you know, we come to this test! *Briana laughs* You know, it’s to the point now where I kind of get in this bubble where I was just doing work all the time, all the time, all the time. I was like I need step out in a way and discover things outside of that — not just sitting in a lab all day. Like in the last year is when I’ve been trying to work on personal relationship cultivation, things like that. So I’m getting more passionate about other people… about others and developing these relationships, and not just clicking and working all the time in the lab. Something I’m passionate about now is making sure that I’m not doing that all the time. I’m doing other things with people and developing relationships.

B: So, let’s see. I’m passionate about a lot of things. *Travis nods* I’m very excited about change, and evolving education that we can do as individuals. And then us… relationships whether it’s parent-to-child or brother-sister or these types of relationships *she motions to herself and Travis*, but also on a national scale within a company, national scale within a state. All the different ways we can identify little areas of improvement and slowly make them. That’s something I’m just becoming passionate about based on my current work, and also seeing our nation and how it’s developing, whether it’s backwards or forwards. That type of thing, I think, is really exciting. Both in that current way but also when I’m learning about our history or like right now, I’m reading about dead bodies, actually. And all the different things I can learn about those. I really like learning, but I’m really excited about problem-solving and change, specifically. How change happens, and how people can embrace change. How you can kind of… right now, I would say my current passions are communication issues and process improvement issues. I think everything from whatever’s happening now to the Palestine conflict can be taken down to communication and process issues, and identifying where those little areas of potential change and intervention are, is really exciting. That’s what I’m excited about right now. Might be something different tomorrow. *Travis takes a sip of coffee from his bottle*

T: That just kind of reminded me because my brain’s slowly waking up. But yeah, and also to say education is something I’m passionate about. Not just for myself, but educating people on all social, political world issues just so everyone can make an informed opinion about whatever they feel strongly about. Let’s say educating one’s self to looking at educating school children — first graders, second graders — teaching them correct information, not just biased, personal, influenced beliefs, or something like that. To an old grandma that’s going to be voting (or this election or whatever), they kind of understand the situation. Look at the issues, not just from one side, but both sides. We’re all guilty and biased in beliefs — some more than others, sometimes. I think it’s important to educate yourself about the issue and all the components to it. I’d say I’m passionate about education on all issues.

B: I’d latch onto one thing to that. In terms of informing the populace or informing ourselves, I think education from first grade to grandmother, I think the most important thing is critical thinking. Like facilitating critical thinking, creative thinking in the mind from the young to the old. That, going back to the change thing, that people that are quite old and set in their ways can still learn and change. I think embracing that idea as a people can help us a lot. I just think much more than filling up somebody’s brain with information, I think that critical thinking is just so important. So no matter what is thrown at them, they can take it, process it, and be able to make a decision from that material. That’s another thing I feel passionate about. There you go!

*we laugh. Travis takes another sip of his coffee*

M: How do you guys communicate and support one another?

T: I got one more thing about the passion thing that I wanted to speak about. One more thing. *Briana is laughing hysterically again* Is that okay?

T: So the other thing… like I said I’m slowly waking up. I’m drinking my coffee. Every time I take a sip, I’m like, “oh yeah…”

M: Every sip is one more enlightenment.

T: Yeah, it is. I’m going to have one more enlightenment here before I go. *he takes another sip* MMmmm. Something else I’ve become more aware about/ aware of and possibly more passionate about is sustainability as far as climate change. How, what can I do at an individual level and also what nations can be doing to kind of reduce waste, reduce emissions. Thinking about the future of the planet where I think it’s starting to become something that’s more and more critical. You know, the more and more I read about it and think about it — reducing carbon footprints. Even just learning about sustainability. How do I grow my own food a bit, and playing around with these things is something I’m becoming more passionate about. That’s important.

B: So our question now is how we communicate and support each other… You can go ahead.

T: She kind of already touched on it a bit with her passion. She’s really good at communicating, but I’m relatively poor, sometimes, at communicating. I think it’s like one way that we — what? *He looks over at Briana who made a little face at this*

B: No, keep going.

T: So when I get mad, I used to not talk much. Kind of more of a cold person sometimes. But like, I’d say that’s something I’ve worked on quite a bit. Our communication — just open communication — addressing issues immediately helps support each other because we can move and progress through things fast and get over things. Move forward quickly where it’s not holding on to things and not talking about it for days, and this type of thing where I think could really be destructive. *He looks at her again inquisitively. Briana laughs a little* Is it? No?

B: You also have to talk about how we support each other.

T: Oh! *Briana laughs*

M: Or, you, Briana%2

Stranger 72, Day 72 - Meet Toby

Stranger 72, Day 72 – Meet Toby, the “Comic Book Enthusiast”

I’ve seen today’s Stranger several times at the gym. He’s another staple there. I wanted to meet him last week, but he was not there. Lo and behold, he was actually at the mall yesterday when I ran into him. That’s when we introduced ourselves before having to go our separate ways. So when I saw him today, I asked him to be the Stranger of the Day to get to know him.

Here’s a recap of our introduction…

Meet Toby, 43

Who are you?

“I’m a country boy from a small town — Chester, South Carolina. I’ve been here since ’95. College-educated. I have a degree in history. Currently, working in IT. I’m single. I live in Brookhaven. I’m gay. I’m just a regular, average Joe. I collect comic books. I’m kind of a — I’m not going to say a ‘geek’ — but I’m half-way there.” Toby laughs.

“Just a regular ole dude.”

I’m thinking about the comic books. I find that interesting. What do you love about comic books?

“I’ve been reading them since I was little. Like, 5 years old. I think that’s how I learned to read, basically. I used to have a passion for reading, but now, as I’ve gotten older, the digital age has come about with the internet and everything, I don’t read like I used to. I used to be in book clubs. I guess the fantasy of it. Having powers. Be able to do things that normal people can’t do. Kind of like an escape for me.”

What’s your favorite comic book hero?

“That’s a good question. I really don’t have a favorite comic book hero. The way I collect comic books is based off the writer and artist at the time. So if, like the X-Men — let me explain.” He pauses and pardons his “French” — “If they have a shitty artist and writer, then I lose interest. It’s basically based off the material that’s in the comic book at the time. It fluctuates. Off the top of my head, I think the most consistent comic book that I prefer is The Authority.”

Toby explains, “It’s based off this group of heroes… they didn’t follow rules. They did whatever it took to combat evil and [exercise] justice in the world. It’s kind of like they were the authority. They didn’t answer to anybody.”

Who is the most bad ass villain?

“I’d say Emma Frost, the White Queen.”

I recall the question the three friends (from Day 29) I had met on top of Stone Mountain. One of the questions they wanted to ask the next day’s Stranger was if people could be a super hero, what super power would people want. (See Stranger 29 story here.) So I asked Toby if he were a super hero, what super power would he want?

“Well, I’m nosy. I kind of have a control issue sometimes, so for me, it would be telepathy. Then, I could read your mind and tell you what to do.” He laughs. “That’s probably it right there.” Haha.

I mention to Toby how one of the friends from Day 29 wanted the super power to teleport. He responds, “You know, if you have telepathy, then you can just tell somebody to take you where you want to go. Let me on this plane. Take me to the pilot. Take me here. I don’t have to be there in an instant.” He laughs again.

I see you here several mornings, about the same mornings I’m here. First, do you enjoy working out?

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a necessity.” He admits, “I’m a little vain. I hate to say this, I just want to look good naked for no other reason. When I look at myself when I get up in the morning, I want to look a certain way. Kind of vain. Not for health reasons or anything like that. Just… just want to look good.”

That works! Plenty of people just want to look good, and that’s perfectly fine. We’re all motivated in different ways, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, too, want to look good.

Is that the motivation behind getting up early in the morning most of those days?

“I get up in the morning because, like I said, I have control issues. So if you get here when it first opens, then you don’t have to be bothered by other people hogging the machines and stuff like that. So the earlier you’re here, the more you get done, and the more machines you can work on without having to weight or share. It’s more of a selfish thing.” He laughs. Those are the same sentiments I feel.

Any other passions?

“Besides comics, I’m an avid movie-goer. And I watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV.” He mentions he has other passions that he’ll “leave off the blog”. Haha, okay!

“Movies… I go to the movies at least once or twice a month. Like I said, I watch a lot of TV. My DVR is probably 80% filled right now.”

What kind of TV shows? What genres?

“Right now, it’s not a specific genre, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m more geared toward shows that have a very diverse cast. So right now, my favorite show is Queen Sugar. It comes on the On Network. It’s about a family — three siblings — whose father died. He leaves them a sugar plantation/ farm. It’s just the trials and tribulations of them trying to run that farm. I have no idea what they’re doing. It’s set in the south of Louisiana, and they’re black. So they’re dealing with the good ole boy system in that area, and just trying to survive, and doing something new they didn’t deal with. They all took three different paths in life. One is a wife of an NBA basketball player. The other’s an award-winning journalist. The third is an ex-convict. So it’s just all of them trying to get along. Also, I discovered a new show called Insecure about this black girl who works at a non-profit in L.A. It’s on HBO. But I’m just mainly geared towards shows that are more diverse. Not the typical Big Bang TheoryCSI…”

I mention to him how I felt like he was kind of an “escape artist” with all the comic books, movies, and TV shows. I was curious what he thought of that. I also asked him how he viewed himself.

“Quirky. Off-beat. I’m just… different. I’m the type of person who wasn’t in the ‘in-crowd’ or ‘popular’ or anything in school. I kind of came into my own as I’ve gotten older. I’m literally just now finding myself for the most part.”

“I probably couldn’t escape myself out of a paper bag if I had to,” he jokes. Haha

“So I don’t know, but I don’t think that’d be a good… I’m just learning how to fit in now.” He adds, “I’m not doing it well still, but I’m getting better at it.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

He thinks about this for a minute.

“Focus mainly on my career. I’m not doing what I want to do right now. I want to get back into QA. That’s what I would like to do. Not necessarily live in Atlanta. If I find a job focusing on QA, then I’ll stay. But at the end of the year, there’s a good chance I might be living in D.C. So focus on my career. Maybe finally buy a home. Would be nice to be in a relationship, but I’m not stressed about it. Came into the world by yourself, so if you die by yourself, oh well. That’s about it.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Considering that this is November and we just had an election, I probably would want to know…”

“Well, I guess it just depends what their answer would be. For instance, if you ask somebody who they voted for, and they said Trump. I would like to know how they reconcile the fact of all the things he’s said about people. How do you reconcile voting for a man like that? In other words, I’ve heard a lot of people say, (I watch a lot of politics) so a lot of pundits say it’s not about race because a lot of people who voted for Obama voted for Trump. Okay, that’s understandable. I get that. They say it’s about the economics. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, those states… middle America has had such a hard time. So they look past what he said to vote for Trump because it was all about economics. But how do you reconcile the things that he said enough to, in your mind, vote for somebody like that? What makes you think that after he’s done the things or said the things he said about other people, he won’t say them about you?”

Toby recounts how Hitler first invaded Poland first. The European powers didn’t believe he would do anything else. However, then, he invaded another country. Toby’s point was that “he didn’t stop. So I think a lot of people don’t realize if you don’t stop somebody from doing something, it’s going to be sooner or later before they turn on you. I’d like to know how people reconcile voting for somebody like that, and to think sooner or later that person won’t turn on you.”

Hmm, that might be a tricky one to ask let alone answer. I may need to just step back and ask tomorrow’s Stranger to explain the reasoning behind who the Stranger voted for — assuming tomorrow’s Stranger voted. We’ll see!

After the handshake.

It was great to finally meet Toby. I see him most every Sunday on one of the machines near the squat racks where I start out. It’s been months, and I never said hello or met him. I wanted to, but yesterday running into each other at the mall was another great example of how we (most others) only reach out and meet when we’re out of the “normal”.

We talked for a little bit longer afterwards focusing on perspectives, and what it means to be an American. I enjoyed the extra time especially since typically at the gym, we’re pretty focused on our workouts.

Meet Toby. No longer a Stranger.