[The following is lightly edited from a journal entry I wrote on the evening of December 19, 2004.]
I went Christmas caroling with Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church tonight. We knocked on a lot of doors, but only a few people listened to us. When we got back to church to warm up, Phil and I coached Wendy and Mike in a game of chess. Whenever one of them called "check," Phil and I hockey checked. And yelled. I got laryngitis.
On my way out, I said "Hi" to Bob. Bob is great--he's got white hair, a long, white beard, and enough weight. Bob is often mistaken for Santa Claus.
There's a janitor at work, Mark, who always greets me and asks me how I'm doing as if he actually wants an account of how I'm doing. Mark takes out the trash and mops. One time, I was talking with Mark, and he said, "I'm just trying to keep everybody's spirits up." That confused me at first. Mark is a janitor. Morale isn't part of his job description.
One time, I was talking with Derek, another janitor at the lab. He asked me what I want to do with my life. I told him that I want to get a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. I then explained, quite patiently, that Ph.D.'s in mechanical engineering are called "doctor" but do not treat ailments. I mentioned I may want to live in Australia. Derek said, "Watch out for crocodiles!" in all seriousness. Derek was genuinely concerned for me, that I would not be mauled by a large reptile.
One time in Philadelphia, as my friends and I were coming off the subway and walking up to street level, we met a man named Seth. He was dirty, had misplaced his leg, outright lost his teeth, and couldn't see or speak clearly. He grabbed my hand when I got near him, and he grabbed Jen's hand, too. All I could think about was finding the nearest sink after I got through this interaction. Seth tried to tell me and my friends his story, but all I could make sense of from his mumbling was something about the Poconos. I'm glad Seth started talking before I could say something stupid.
When Bob talks, his tongue often goes all the way to the roof of his mouth. He's kind of hard to follow. Bob is a Santa--he has three gigs to go to tomorrow. Sometimes, Bob's sentences don't go anywhere. "I'm Santa for all kinds of kids--white, colored, Spanish..." and then it trails off. What's the point, Bob?
Bob can talk like Donald Duck. It's quite amazing. Bob says it's a gift from God. People have trouble understanding Bob when he talks like Donald Duck. Bob says "If you listen, you get it."
After talking with Bob, I walked toward the door. Bob told me to look out, but I wasn't listening; I almost bumped into Clyde.
Phil and I yelled. I got laryngitis.