Let Me Tell You About My Feelings

Remember Far Side cartoons created by Gary Larsen? They were often with animals having some sense of human feelings, often a deeper sense than many humans actually have. Or, Larsen would have a group of people allegedly thinking or doing something that was an exaggeration of some human tendency. I miss Far Side. The cartoons made me laugh at myself and humanity without derision. I remember one in particular that has to do with legs.

The “leg cartoon” as Deb and I refer to it has led to our rather frequent expression of “legging” and “leg people.” The cartoon is one picture of several folks in a bar setting. Everyone in the bar has evidently been in some kind of accident and has had some kind of amputation. Hence, all these people have some kind of peg replacing their lost appendage. There are several people with peg legs, of course, which is what we normally think with some kind of amputation. There are also people with peg arms, peg hands, peg feet, peg ears, and the like. There is also someone with a peg head. This is a barroom scene, so people are evidently talking about the accidents or illnesses that caused them to lose part of their bodies. Seems reasonable.

There is only one caption at the bottom of the cartoon, evidently a statement being spoken by one guy at the bar to another guy at the bar. The inference made from the caption is that the guy with the peg head has just explained how his head had come to be amputated and replaced with a peg head. The guy speaking has a peg leg; the guy listening in the one person in the bar who has a peg head. The caption reads, “That’s nothing. Let me tell you about my leg!” Get it? The guy with the missing leg thinks that his loss of his leg is more significant than the guy who has lost his head!

Do you know “leg people,” i.e. people who always want to tell you about their “legs,” i.e. what is going on with them, what they think, what they feel, or what they did? I know many such people, some very particularly. Perhaps more importantly, I notice that I have “legs” that often seem more important than the peg legs or even the “peg heads” that the other person is talking about. In such circumstances, I want to tell my story. I want to have air time. I want someone to hear my feelings. But in that moment I have run over my friend’s leg story, arm story, or head story. It is a challenge to listen while I have my own legs while hearing my friend’s legs.

Listening

Deb and I have been working furiously on our most recent book project, tentatively entitled Let Me Tell You How I Feel. If you have read some of our blogs over the past year you will notice that we have written quite a bit about “feelings.” I suggest you review these, particularly the one on hearing feelings. In brief review “feelings” would be a central ingredient of a person, closely aligned, or perhaps a representation of one’s “inner self.” We think (abstractly) of a human being as composed of concentric circles: God or godlike at the core; then “core self” (some people talk about inner self, spirit, or soul); then the next concentric circle is the gifts and abilities we have, some natural, some learned, some enhanced; this third circle is followed by an expression of these gifts, often in words but with an orientation that is physical, emotional, productive, or cognitive. Our focus in the book is to help people express themselves (this would be the third concentric circle) and take the consequences of this expression.

First of all, note that all these terms are abstract and representational. Furthermore, none of these terms is definable. We note that all the really basic elements of the universe, like time, distance, and mass, are undefinable. Velocity is defined: distance over time, and weight is defined: mass times gravity, but time, distance, and mass are not defined. Likewise, many elements of the human experience are not defined, like love, mind, and even life. We put “feelings” in this category of undefined elements of life. We understand time, life, love, and feelings by observation and effect. What is the effect of time, love, etc.? How do we experience such things? This is how we come to understand feelings: observation and experience. Then we do the hard job of communicating this undefined important matter.

The communication of “feelings” is fraught with danger, not the least of which is the danger of thinking that I can communicate feelings precisely. I cannot. But that does not mean I shouldn’t make an honest attempt to communicate my feelings. I just have to keep in mind that I am not an ET of the 1980’s movie who could just “beam” his feelings to someone else. We are not ETs. We have to use words. Or perhaps other means of communicating like play, work, art, music, or dance. But most of us use words, which is implicitly challenging.

Challenging as it is to express and ultimately communicate feelings, it is much harder to hear them. Hearing someone express feelings causes a host of challenges for the listener, not the least of which is his/her own feelings. (By the way, we make an important distinction between feelings and emotion understanding that emotion is but a subset of feelings, but this is not the time to discuss that important matter.) The important factor in our present discussion is to note that when someone expresses feelings, the person listening will have feelings. If the listener is working to understand the speaker, he must know his own feelings, value these feelings, and keep his feelings to himself. Otherwise, he will be talking about his legs. Nothing wrong with legs, but they intrude on the listening process. This containing one’s feelings while listening is no easy project because everyone has legs.

What I have come to do is simply listen to the “legs” of the person talking to me, and do my best to understand my friend’s story. The more difficult task is when I am speaking about my story and my story is interrupted with the other person’s legs. Painful as it is for me to stop telling my story, I am often required to do so. I like to think that this is an act of grace on my part, but I sometimes render this grace with less than true graciousness, and maybe a bit of resentment. I have come to believe, however, that the person with the legs needs to tell me about her legs, and let it be. Thank goodness I’m a therapist.

Further Reading

Previous blogs on feelings

Forthcoming book on Feelings, probably available in a few months in manuscript form

Temperament IV: Lovers

This is the fourth in a series about “temperament” in which we are discussing the idea of temperament as a way of understanding personality and the behavior that results from one’s personality. Acknowledging that there are many ways of understanding personality, we propose that there are four primary temperaments that give us a general orientation to the world:

  • Players: seek experience, often excitement, adventure, and tend to take a rather physical engagement to the world
  • Analysts: seek meaning in life by identifying problems and their solutions
  • Lovers: whom we will discuss in this document
  • Caretakers: take care of things, both property and people

Our use of “temperament,” as well as several other ways of understanding personality is first and foremost a focus on “what is right about people” rather than the rather popular way of understanding what is wrong with various mental health diagnoses. We do not disparage the use of such problem-based ways of understanding people, but rather do not think it is the best way to start the understanding process. We do, however, admit that there are problems that result from all good things including temperament. The “problems” that erupt from temperament are primarily three: (1) the person does not know, and hence value, his or her own temperament, (2) the person uses the gifts of his/her temperament “to a fault,” and (3) one’s gifts of temperament may be substantially different from people with other temperaments leading to a conflict between two good things.

Herein we will discuss the characteristic that are natural to the people we call “lovers” and then speak somewhat of the value that such people bring to the world. We will defer the challenges and opportunities that lovers have in the world to a latter blog.

Characteristics of Lovers

  1. Connecting

Like the term love, “connecting” does not lend itself to an exact definition but it a very real experience nevertheless just like the many elements of psychology and the basic elements of the universe are real but hard to define. This is the central ingredient of people we call “lovers,” but this characteristic does not lend itself to exact definition. It is something like feeling the same thing that another person feels. Connecting is a shared feeling, shared, insight, shared belief, shared joy, shared sorrow, shared hope, shared expectation or shared experience. Clearly, this has to do with sharing. This sharing, this connecting blends the boundaries between people, and it is something that lovers do all the time and especially with the people they most love. I sometimes say that lovers think, “If you feel it, I will feel it,” whatever the “it” is. A cognate of this feeling is something like, “If I feel it, you feel it,” which, however true this might be, can be problematic for lovers. The simplest experience of something shared jointly can be the seeing, appreciating, and experiencing a sunset or a sunrise because beauty is usually another part of the lover temperament. Connection can just as equally experienced in any other realm of life but the key is always having the same feeling as someone else.

This connection/sharing phenomenon can lead to a new creation, what we call la unity of souls. This unity is more than one person and more than the other person, and it is more than just two people experiencing something. It is a spiritual union that now makes an us out of “you” and “me.” This “us” orientation that lovers have is more important than the I and the you, and it is something that they are looking for all the time.

Both of our daughters have this lover temperament, and both seek connections, but our younger daughter, Jenny, is perhaps more of a true lover, while Krissie blends player with her lover temperament. When we talk, text, Facebook, or visit, Jenny is always the one who seeks connection with us. Certainly, hugs are first when we actually meet, but after those moments she is looking to what we feel, what we think, and what we have done. She is looking for connections. She is looking at a way to find us so she can find a way to blend with us. I wonder how these two girls turned out so good in life with one parent a caretaker and the other an analyst. It seems that we all muddled through their childhood together doing our best to love each other. Lovers do it best.

  1. Harmonious

Harmony is an adjunct to connection. When two people have this unity of souls, there are yet two people in the “us” but the relationship but these two people find different ways of experiencing life and expressing their feelings. Ideally for the lover, this harmony works to enhance not only both people but the “us” that has been created in the connection. In seeking this harmony lovers avoid conflict if at all possible. They will bend their own perceptions and their own words to find agreement and harmony, and they attempt to blend others’ feelings and perceptions to blend with their own. Lovers will do their best to find this harmony by listening, watching, and feeling their emotions in order to see how the other person sees the world and feels about the world.

The lovers that I have mentioned above all have this characteristic of seeking harmony. Daughter Jenny rarely displays any kind of anger or displeasure. Likewise, I have rarely seen other lovers angry, at least at the beginning of a relationship. Janet gets angry on a very rare occasion, and I have only seen John a bit irritated. Rather, I have seen these people spend hours and hours seeking to connect with people and find similarities that make for human harmony. And when they can’t seem to find harmony, they can feel great distress and clearly repressed anger. Mostly, though, they simply feel a great loss when harmony is in absence.

  1. Dreaming.

We have discussed how analysts like to dream. Lovers also dream, but their dreaming is substantially different than that of analysts. Simply put, lovers’ dreams are more emotional while analysts’ dreams are more cognitive. Furthermore, lovers’ dreams are more about connections with people. Dreaming for a lover is much more of a free-floating process where their minds drift into possibilities and opportunities for human connections. Lovers’ dreaming is almost always people-centered rather than things-centered the way caretakers dream or idea-centered the way analysts dream. They don’t think much about why something has happened the way analysts do, nor do they think about what has happened like caretakers. They dream about who they could be connected with. They might dream about having a perfect relationship, or dream about improving their current relationship, or they might dream a having a relationship with some unknown person where everything is about connection and harmony. Lovers can dream about places, ideas, and possibilities but these dreams always involve people. Furthermore, these dreams do not have to come into fruition; it is enough for a lover to dream about doing something, seeing something, or going somewhere. When a lover has engaged in this kind of fanciful dreaming, it may no longer be necessary to actually do the dream. Lovers have the ability to experience the future when they dream, a future that may never happen, but is real nevertheless.

  1. Touching.

It is almost impossible for lovers to keep from touching people. Yesterday, Deb and I did therapy with a couple. I have been working with the man for many months, and Deb has been working with the woman. This man and wife have come to a very difficult place in their life together and they needed us to help them sort things out. After rather intensive three-plus hours with this couple, and after many tears, we ended the session. After we all stood up, the wife, a woman I had never met before, reached out her hand for a handshake, which I accepted. But then almost if she had said, “I need more than this,” she reached out to me for a hug. It was one of those full body hugs that lovers give where two bodies are close enough to feel one another’s heartbeats. It wasn’t one of those hugs that I call “A-frame” where two people only touch at head level, nor was it a “C-frame” hug that is typical of men where the two men stand facing in the same direction each with an arm around the other guy. This was a great big bear hug. It was real, and it was absolutely necessary for her. We had had this three-hour connection, not all of which was pleasant, and she needed to feel this physical connection before she left my office.

Lovers’ tendency to touch people is clearest when they touch another person who is in pain of some kind. The affectionate touch rendered to someone in pain that is fairly natural for all of us is perhaps more of a wonderful compulsion for lovers: they are compelled to touch a person in pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional. Their touch is very likely healing in a way that lies beyond exact science. There are professional healers, many of whom may well be lovers by temperament, utilize “healing touch” as a principal part of their work. Healing touch is quite simply the healer placing his or her hands on the part of the body of the patient that is in some kind of pain. There is a good bit of research that suggests that touch, whether emotional or physical, is beneficial to people in some kind of pain. Massage therapists perhaps know more about the healing nature of physical touch, but it is also a part of physical therapy, chiropractic, nursing care, Reiki, and other more traditional medical practice. When I had a massage recently, I could not distinguish the difference between the muscle relief I experienced from the more emotional relief I felt. Many nontraditional healing practitioners talk of a healing “energy” that occurs when two people touch one another.

  1. Generous.

Lovers truly enjoy giving. They like to give hugs. They like to give greeting cards and thank you notes. They like to give presents. They can even give things that they probably can’t afford to give, like property, money, or time. Lovers are very good at giving affection for someone who is in pain even though the very same person may have brought them pain in the past. If a lover is around someone that is hurting in some way, whether from physical, emotional, or relational matters, the lover will feel immediate compassion and a desire to give something to the hurting person. Lovers’ generous nature is more than meeting someone’s need. They simply enjoy the act of giving, expecting nothing in return. My sister, lover by nature, insists that I take some kind of present with me when I leave her house, and when she comes to our house, the car trunk is full of several presents. Lovers’ giving can be out of their own abundance or out of sacrifice, but it is absolutely genuine.

This generous nature of lovers extends to deeper feeling and sacrifice. Lovers are more forgiving than people of other temperaments. It is simply easier for lovers to forgive offenses and mistakes in other people. They seem able to understand that much offense and many mistakes are not intentional, but rather due to misunderstanding or misjudgment. When they are at their best, lovers can forget about bad things that have happened to them or that have been done to them. They can be on the receiving end of vicious attacks, physical or verbal, and they will return the next day, even the next hour, with a spontaneous and genuine felt concern for their attackers if the attacker displays regret and makes an apology. Lovers seem not to even remember offensive things that were said or done to them. Forgiveness for lovers can come easily and naturally, especially if the offending party shows some kind of contrition.

Next up: Temperament V: Caretakers

Further reading: see previous blogs

One taxi, two taxi, three taxi then four. Taxi (Life) Lessons in Portugal

Taxis: the good, the bad, and the ugly

When Ron and I travel in a foreign country, we rarely use taxis, so the whole experience of using them is a bit “foreign” to me. We’re usually driving, riding the train, or just walking. But when I recently went to Portugal by myself, I had planned to use taxis a bit more because I didn’t want to waste too much time finding buses and walking miles in hours to get to my destination hike. Furthermore, I had heard that taxis in Portugal were rather inexpensive, efficient, and friendly, so I looked forward to the convenience while getting from A to Z in Portugal.

Taxi #1: the vile ride

The first ride, what I have come to call “the vile ride,” was such a misrepresentation of the good of humanity that I can only do what we learned while living in St. John’s Newfoundland and affectionately call “the Newfie Nod” a specific side cock of the head which can denote a number of things from a simple greeting to an emotional “oh well, what are you doing to do about it?”

I had just arrived in Lisbon, still at the airport and went outside to find a taxi ride to my night’s lodging. I just assumed you go to curb side and wave your hand, but I quickly learned that it was required of me to go through the “cow corral” like the other hundreds of people and wait your turn. I took a few steps, stopped, took a few steps, stopped, turned one corner, took a few steps and waited, and on and on all the while wondering just how many taxis there could possibly be because the wait wasn’t a wait for a taxi to arrive, but for the seemingly equally long line of taxis to simply take their turn to pick up those of us waiting our turn. My turn came and before I could even take a breath the taxi driver was out of the car and had opened the boot. I waved him on by motioning to my back pack still strapped on, saying I will keep my pack on and began to get into the back seat. The driver remained outside and then with quite a huff, he slammed the boot and got in the car.  Then, having been instructed to do so by the hostess of the guess house to which I was going, I asked the driver that It would be “around 15 euros, right?” Then like a bolt from the sky he turned to me and with a face as fierce as his word he sharply spoke “You have no respect for me!”

Being taken back, I didn’t immediately say anything, which would have been impossible anyway for he went right on, repeating that I have no respect for him and that whenever he travels, he is respectful. His chastisement in tone and gesture indicated I was possibly the most of low life he had yet encountered.  Within a few moments of his barrage I attempted to down scale the tone by indicating that I was easier for me to keep the pack on given it was strapped to my body and I was already seated and that I didn’t want an extra expense by putting it the boot. Then regarding the amount, in my honest attempt at redemption told him that I had been informed of the approximate cost and simply wanted to confirm the expected amount. This explanation along with my subsequent apology was to no avail for he informed me again in no uncertain terms that I have “no respect,” that he did not know the amount, that the meter would tell him, and he would charge me for the luggage anyway.

Silly me, I then tried to assure him that this being my first day in Portugal I was just going by the recommendations rendered only to be met again with his spewing. Now, given he had already started driving, his suggestion that perhaps I would like another taxi, was a bit late. Finally determining that this man simply wanted an argument I declared that I would no longer discuss this in anger. He sped on and I held on for dear life as he acted out his temperament though his driving jerking across lanes, around vehicles of all sizes and barely keeping all four tires grounded through the round-a-bouts in what surely exceeded even the tourism warning of fast taxi drivers.

In a continued heated silence, we neared my destination. He slowed down, checked the address, stopped the taxi. In preparation for my departure, I had set my mind to be as kind as I could and display a genuine regard for him despite himself. After I paid the due 18 Euro and began to exit the car I said “I wish you well”. However, as soon as the door was closed and he began to sped off I could hear him say with his head out his window “fuck you”.

Taxi # 2: an honest mistake.

Having enjoyed my evening in Lisbon (on foot), I awoke to a beautiful morning enjoying what seemingly only European cities can provide, the most delightful sidewalk cafes filled with leisured patrons and nearby pastry shops to die for.  I did my best to also “take it easy” for a short time although I was anxious to get on my way to the Metro which would take me to the major bus stop where I intended to get a ticket to Porto Covo to begin my hiking excursion down the Fisherman’s Trail along Portugal’s beautiful coast. Once I arrived at the bus station, I was disappointed to learn that I had missed the first bus and there was not another bus available until 4 PM. Shoot. It was only about 9:30 which meant another 6.5 hours till the bus left and then another four hours on the bus. Ten hours. Darn. I had already lost one day due to a lengthy delay out of Chicago which in turn caused a missed connection out of Madrid to Lisbon. I didn’t want to delay my hiking intention and end up just being a “tourist” for a full day so I sought out a taxi. I found an attendant outside the bus station and asked about taxis going as far as Porto Covo. He waved his hand in an easy manner as he said that of course taxis would take me anywhere I wanted to go. He directed me to the taxi stand where again, standing in a line (short one, thank goodness) I asked the locals about taxis. They widened their eyes when I said Porto Covo and kept them wide in facial warning that it would be expensive! Humph. I waited my turn and began my internal debate of choosing between the utiles of time or money.

When “my taxi” pulled up I leaned in the window and asked if he could drive me to Porto Covo. “Porto Covo?”, he asked, as if he had just hit a gold mine.  “Yes, Porto Covo, can you do a longer ride this morning?” I asked how long it would take and how much it would cost, off the meter (I thought that I might need a bargaining chip). He had to check. I leaned back out of the window while he did his research. He came back to me with a hesitant smile and reported that it would be 100 klicks and about as many euros. I asked for a firm price. He then stated firmly that he would drive me to Porto Covo for 100 euros plus whatever the highway tolls might be, maybe as much as 30 euros. I confirmed that it would be off the meter and a flat fee for the mileage plus tolls. He re-confirmed. I bit my lip as I studied his face. He looked good, “clean” as I like to describe relatively healthy people. “Okay, let’s do it but I need you to give me a few minutes to go to the bathroom and get the cash (he wouldn’t take a credit card, his bargaining chip, I suppose).” He said sure, and showed me where he would be waiting. I jogged back to the bus station, did my duty and grabbed a quick espresso, having an absolutely lovely encounter with the young man serving me, and then giddily jogged back down to the waiting taxi. I was excited as I got in his cab because I was going I was going H-I-K-I-N-G!  He was excited too as he gestured to the meter to prove it was a cash agreement. He was going to get P-A-I-D! And so the two of us, each happy in our own way took off. I had no interest in conversation, looking forward to viewing the country side but I did venture to declare to him that I was an honest person and he returned the favor of noting that he too was a good and honest person. What could possibly go wrong with an easy morning 100-euro excursion? Within a few klicks I loosened up and offered that I had just turned 64 the week before and had come to his beautiful land to hike the Fisherman’s Trail. He had recently turned 62 and had not been to Porto Covo for many, many years and thought it would be nice to see the little seaside village again. That was the extent of our conversation. Traffic was easy, we were out of the city within a short time and on the main expressway passing various sites common to such drives. The silent ride was pleasant and going smoothly. After a bit we hit the wine country to which I gleefully exclaimed “Portugal Vino!” He turned to look out the window and chuckled, “yes, vineyards…good wine, Portugal. Good wine.” We rode on. Two good honest introverts doing their own thing made for a pleasant ride as I followed along my scant map noting the sign posts for a few of the cities and regions along the way.

The road stretched on and then I heard him sigh. I paid no mind knowing it was a “long ride”.  A short time passed then I heard him sign again.  And then, again but louder. I realized, that yes, this really was feeling like a long ride and that we should be there soon. And then yet again I heard him sigh as he began to dishevel his hair with his hand. I wondered what was going on. I noted that awhile back I had heard an alarm ping on his phone but I had paid it no mind and didn’t make the connection until he said that there was a mistake. A mistake?  He confirmed as he pulled off the highway (we had already gotten off the toll way and were on a lesser trafficked dual highway) onto a bit of gravel patch on which an abandoned car was sitting…just what was this mistake???

He held up his phone and said it was wrong, it was not 100 km, but 175! OUCH. No wonder it was feeling “long”.  My first thought was this is going to take longer than the expected hour while I simultaneously knew he was concerned that this was an unmetered ride. He reiterated that this was a mistake and did the hand in the hair thing again. I tried to keep the calm by saying “let’s think this though” but I knew it wasn’t going to work when he said “this is an omen!”. “No, no omen”, I said, “just a mistake.” “Are we on the right road?” I asked, wanting to get control of the situation “Yes, I know the road” he said in frustration, “but the kilometers are wrong!” He had me look at the speedometer he had set on trip. Yes, I could see it was already well over 100 km, and Google was now telling him there were 35 more to go.

I knew right then that there were a few decisions that were going to have to be made and that I wasn’t going to foot the full bill on this but thought it best that I keep my musings to myself. Sitting there on the side of the road I simply noted that he agreed to get me to Porto Covo. Bless his honest soul, he sighed again, this time with his hand to his forehead, and turned back onto the road. I silently began to calculate how much cash I had immediately available and how I could assist without taking advantage of him or allowing him take advantage of me. I had no doubt this was simply one of those “honest mistakes” that had to be swallowed, I just wasn’t yet sure by which of us. Besides we both stated we were honest people and I believed it to be true.

A bit more down the road we hit a roundabout and I saw a sign for Porto Covo that my driver had missed. Granted we were now on “country roads” and the signs were not posted as they would have been on the expressway. “Now what is happening?”, I began to think: did he miss the sign, was there a shorter route that he knew about, or was he just so distressed he wasn’t paying attention. We got past the roundabout and I looked back and again I saw the sign for Porto Covo pointing the other way. I spoke up and he looked back. Again he pulled off the road, turned around and looked at the sign and cursed Google and smacked the phone with the back of his knuckles.  He turned the car around and followed the signs to Porto Covo.  Thank the Portuguese gods, we only had a few more klicks to go. Once we were in the small town I told him to just stop anywhere.  He stopped. I took ahold of my back pack, opened the door and then handed him the 100 euros reminding him that this is what we had agreed on. Then I handed him 30 more euros letting him know that I watched the toll fees as they registered and that they weren’t even close to 30 but wanted to ease some of his distress for the honest mistake. Then, in the last moment I gave him ten more euros and he just shook his head and said “Oh, lady!” which sadly wasn’t in appreciation but in disappointment that I did not pay a euro each for the full 175 kilometers plus tolls.  I said I was sorry and got out of his car. I shut the door and felt very sad. I knew in many ways he lost more than I did. I began walking into town, and within a few minutes I saw him circle around. I didn’t heed him and he didn’t stop. Bless his heart.

Taxi # 4: Do you know where you’re going? (Yes, I am skipping to number 4 intentionally.)

I had the most wonderful five days hiking along the coast. It was everything I had been told, or had read that it was and now, back in Lisbon having savored a real touristy day and evening was back on the metro to return to my hotel which was about 3 klicks from the airport, as the crow flies, anyway. I made sure I noted where I had gotten on the metro and even took a picture of it on my phone for easy reference so I could get off at the same place. Once I got in the train, given the time of day, it was exceedingly busy and we were really crammed in. I mean crammed in. I thought about making a joke that I was glad I wasn’t going to be having sardines for dinner, but declined knowing that a lot of people don’t “get my jokes”. We jostled about and waited for the train to move. It didn’t. We shuffled and waited some more. Then the doors opened again and closed again. I knew this wasn’t the way the metro doors usually behaved. I asked some young men who had already interpreted for me and they said that there was some trouble. Obviously. Anyway, tight to the ribs we were. So tight in fact, that very jovial lady’s breast was solidly braced against my hand which held the floor pole. It struck me as interesting really. She didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t seem to care, or perhaps, who knows, maybe she was liking it. I am in Europe, after all. I couldn’t tell. She seemed happy enough, chatting and laughing with her friends. I figured she just wasn’t aware of it. But being a comparatively prudish American in a tram full of Europeans, I figured it was just me that was uncomfortable with this situation: a woman’s breast solidly pressed against my hand. Then of course, I began to wonder, as my eyes widened, what part of my anatomy was pressed up against someone? I tried not to laugh for fear it if were true I might jiggle that body part. I mused as to whether my fellow sardine travelers might wonder if I were aware of my body parts pressed up against them in some way. I laughed at myself again thinking, “Deb, this is Europe, not Wisconsin” and just did in Lisbon what Lisboetas evidently do in the sardined subway: I just smiled and hung on as if full body contact with a stranger was the most natural thing in the world.

As you can guess the tram did eventually move but the announcement was made that it would only go to a given juncture and not continue on its scheduled route. Okay, that meant that I would not be getting off where I got on which in turn meant I would not know where I was and how to retrace my passage back to the hotel (No, I didn’t think to use google any more than my previous taxi driver did). So, when the sardined tram finally came to a stop and the breasted lady got off in front me of, I left too privately noting if I could feel any release of human flesh from any given portion of my anatomy (I didn’t). I found a taxi just outside the metro station and leaned in to ask how far to my destination. He wasn’t immediately sure of the location until I told him it was about 3 Km from the airport as a matter of general reference and then he vigorously nodded his head and said with an unbending confidence “7 euros”. Great! I got in his taxi. Being in early evening traffic there were a lot of stops at lights during which times I noticed he kept fiddling with his phone. Then I realized he had circled around (I am not making these stories up!) He said he was sorry, he would find it. He would find it???? He is one of hundreds if not a thousand plus taxi drivers in Lisbon and he doesn’t know where the f… he is and where the f… he is going? He would find it? No less than three times, he said “Sorry, I will find it.” He then asked if I smoked? No. He asked if it was okay if he smoked and I responded with some kind of “please don’t.” He did his own rendition of sighs and hair gesturing.  Again, he was sorry and quickly stopped at a light, rolled down his window, and asked another taxi going the other way along the boulevard if he knew the Rue I was going to. That taxi driver shrugged and left when the light turned.  “Sorry” again he said to me. Then it was I who suggested he try Google maps. With this he finally pulled the cab over and stopped and punched my address into his phone. All I could do was roll my eyes. “Okay” he said, “I know where!” Great.  We got there eventually, but in a lot more than 7 kilometers. Even so, by golly, I was going to stick to his word. I paid him his 7 euros and walked away.

Taxi # 3: unexpected generosity 

Bear with me please, this is the best of them all.  Really.

So, I had just finished the last segment of my five days hiking along Fisherman’s Trail. It was wonderful. I knew that morning when I set out that I was only going to go part way since I was going to return to my previous night’s lodging in preparation for my BUS ride the next day to Lisbon. As I was hiking along the sea cliffs, savoring the last bit of the pounding surf I came to the trails end before I would go overland to the town of Rogil where I knew I would be able…to get a…taxi…back to Odeceixe. I assumed anyway, that I could and would.  Besides, if I couldn’t, I knew I would just back trek on the trail even if it would be a very long day doing so.

After what became a longer than I expected hike through farm land and off beat paths I reached Rogil. Staying on the inland road I reached a lovely coffee shop at the junction of the main highway. As I ordered a double espresso, I asked the owner if there would be any trouble getting a taxi back to Odeceixe. He shook his head and said “No trouble, easy.” Music to my ears, of course. I asked him that if after I finished my espresso would he call a cab for me. He smiled. Feeling confident and a bit hungry I ordered one of those nice little chicken pastries with my espresso.  I dropped my pack, took out my camera for a few last shots of the lovely gardens around the patio, and sipped my espresso and ate my little pie. I went back in and placed my cup and saucer on the counter and indicated I was ready for the taxi and he nodded affirmingly as if it was the surest thing in the world.

Within a minute he came out to the table and said that there was trouble with the taxi. I shuffled my feet as if to personally signal preparedness to keep on trekking… “Okay, trouble, of course, taxis!” I barely had time to think as he proceeded to tell me that both taxis were busy and were not available. But, without missing a beat he went on to say that he was going to drive me in his car.

He would drive me in his car? Oh, he is a taxi guy too. Okay, great. Really great. I grabbed my back pack and followed him down the back side of his espresso shop expecting a taxi cab to be sitting there. No, this was his personal car and as I stood there while this dear man began to clear out the passenger seat and floorboard of loose papers and empty coffee cups and all such things that tend to accumulate, I realized he wasn’t a taxi driver in addition to running an espresso café, but rather, this man was a good man who “promised me” a taxi would be available and was literally going to personally drive me to Odeceixe. And he did.  It was a delightful ride of about ten klicks in which in his limited English told me about his two children. One, his “woman child”, who was 21 (he wrote the number in the dust on his dash board given he wasn’t sure how to say the number), is away at college studying math. And his “man child” was 19, again, he wrote the number further down the dash dust board. The man child I learned is very good with computers and is at a tech school doing auto computer engineering. I indicated that he must be proud. He got the jest and nodded his head with a bit of embarrassed joy.

He took me into Odeceixe. As I got out he did too and retrieved my back pack from the boot of his car. We shook hands and then I gave him ten euros. Again, he embarrassingly smiled and took the ten-note. He turned his car around in the village square and as he banked the corner out of town he waved. Such a great taxi man, I thought. How wonderful humanity is.

Moral of the stories: win some loose some. But in the end, we win.  I believe this.

Granted there are rough and ugly people in life, like the first taxi driver who seemingly was determined to have a bad day for whatever his reason. Sometimes, we just have to call a spade a spade and let them go, hopefully without harm. God forbid he had been the driver down to Porto Covo!

Sometimes, there is simple ignorance and just plain honest mistakes.  They are going to happen. It doesn’t matter if it is me or the other guy who makes them. We have to let them come, think them through, do what we think is best and then, let them go.

Most importantly though, there are so many wonderfully good and kind people, all around the world. Certainly, I encountered numerous of them in Portugal both in the towns and on the trails: Germans, Scandinavians, South Africans, Australians, Swiss, Italians, Dutch, Canadians, and of course the Portuguese. Oh, and would you believe, only one other American did I encounter on the trails, all who were quick to smile, assumed for you a good day, happy to share a stranger’s meal, lend a hand up a ragged cliff or give you a promised ride when the other drivers were busy.

Everywhere, always, I believe there will be glorious moments of respite and the best of humanity will shine forth. I choose to focus on this.