S1E4: The Fun-gal

Original Transcript:

Dear H,

I sat at the window seat staring at the dark, gloomy skies above and the expansive wing in front of me waiting for the lull of the turbines to start. The rain was light, but the flight would be home bound toward blue skies. I was flying back from a scholarship conference in Wisconsin where I stayed indoors for the 3 days learning about sanitation processes and new procedures introduced to the food industry by FSMA, Food Safety Modernization Act. The weather stormed on outside and I managed to stay awake fighting off some sort of illness as well as the early morning lectures. Thank goodness for tea, lots and lots of tea. Thank goodness I had a room all to myself for rest and relaxation, free of disturbances. My stream of thought was interrupted by a lady who introduced herself to me. She sat in the middle seat and started the conversation...

Her name started with an L. My memory fails me now as I don't recall whether her name ended with "en" or "a". It's been three years. As with all new conversations, she started with the basics: name, profession, and the likes. As the roar of the plane erupts and the flight attendants gave their routine safety procedures, the conversation took off. Discussions about beer in Wisconsin is really good and how I missed out because I didn't leave the food sanitation conference to try the different types of beers available. In my defense, I had free beer, two tickets of free beer at one point. Granted, the beer was not from a microbrewery, but still! She was right. I missed out on the craft beers and some beer festival because Wisconsin has a large population of German descent... which is true. By the way, Wisconsin people let me know what beer festival I'm missing out on. I was in Wisconsin in May of 2014. Maybe the month helps you let me know which beer festival is happening around that time? Anyway, I missed out on good beer. We debated about our preferences for beer. I brought up how the bartender serving the beer at the food sanitation conference didn't know what a craft beer was which made me think about whether or not what I should rephrase "craft beer" to "local beer"...? She shrugs and tells me something along the lines about how maybe the bartender isn't a good bartender or doesn't have taste. Sass-afras point! Fast forward to today, in the present moment, I like sour beers. I like sour stuff like pickles and vinegar, especially if paired with soy sauce. I like sourdough. I LOVE pickled mushrooms. Rewind to May 2014. I think the conversation dived into beer because I said I major in food science and I was in Wisconsin because of a travel scholarship. I regret not figuring out how much money I could've spent on travel and food expenses that could have been reimbursed because I could've spent the full thousand. Instead, I spent 3/4 of it on airfare.

So, yeah, I explained to her about food science and she talked to me about nursing school. By now, in 2017, she's probably a RN somewhere saving families and many other awesome medical things like phlebotomy. I don't think I told her I owned a phlebotomy license in the state of California. By the way, I said phlebotomy, not lobotomy. I was licensed to draw blood and collect other bodily fluid samples for lab testing. I didn't find sticking a pick through someone's skull and shaking it all around like the hokey-pokey was a fulfilling and scientifically accurate job. I could've contributed better to the conversation, now that I think about it. So, she was finished with some classes and decided to fly back home where her family resides in Colorado while I was flying back to California. We both had a layover at Arizona which I now think is interesting. We had to fly from Wisconsin and pass our respective final destinations only to fly back upwards to our final destination. Hey, I shouldn't complain as I had a wonderful conversation on a plane ride. Somehow, I also remember how she used to live in Florida, but her family would move around often because her father was in the Air Force. Ironically, he is afraid of heights. Curiouser and curiouser. I would very much like to figure out how her father ended up as a pilot and eventually live in Denver, Colorado.

At some point, the conversation was drawn out long enough that I needed to urinate. I pick the window seat for two reasons: the view outside of the window and the ability to sleep by controlling the cover. I know. The window seat is the furthest from the aisle and I would disturb two people when needing to go to the restroom. I caused an inconvenience, a disruption in the conversation, but I really needed to go. So, I bothered the man, sleeping no doubt, at the aisle seat such that I can get up and go down the aisle to use the restroom. I come back to disturb everyone, again. Luckily, the conversation continues with the newly awoken man. He's awesome too. I still have his business card. After he introduced himself, there was an exchange of business cards. I was the Yappie who had Chau Time business cards before graduating college. So, Mr. Segura -I haven't talked to him since, so, I'm going to just disclose a last name- is a dude who manages trusts. Laur, as I'm going to call her because I sadly don't remember the last part of name and Laur-X sounds like Lorax and I don't want to infringe on copyright issues and Laur sounds like Lore as in body of knowledge and she is a body of knowledge, didn't have any cards which is completely fine. I also want to point out the individuals whom have told me, dude, nice; you did a low key passing her your number. To which I reply, I wish I was that smooth, but also, how do people think of these things? I guess I'm naive.

I digress. The conversation continued on, the three of us on a plane exchanging stories and philosophies. Laur recently read a psychology book and how it shaped her perspective. She started to apply what she read by trying to talk to strangers and make friends. Told you she's a body of knowledge. I think I suggested to her to read Complications by Atul Gawande, but I could be wrong about that. My memory is not what it used to be. Mr. Segura asked me about how consumer taste tests are done for different food products and how it can be tested for people in an airplane versus on ground. He also gave detailed descriptions of taking care of kids in the conference room while the parents are settling their disputes over a trust. More specifically, he came from a rainy day and was playing tag with a kid. He had to slide across the table and perfectly catch the kid knowing that while he did this, he was monitored by a camera in the room. Just as he tagged the kid, the door opens and the manager saw the fray. Mr. Segura and the kid had fun and Segura was scolded. Told you he's awesome. Because Mr. Segura asked about sensory evaluation for people on an airplane, I also discussed about the Bernoulli effect on wings and how amazing science achievement and human ingenuity puts people in a craft to fly long distances. Just a mere half century ago, that was not possible.

Before landing, Laur asked me about my future goals. I think I said I would like to get into food consulting and eventually do a PhD on mushrooms. After that, I would get a tattoo of a morel. That's pretty much the end of the conversation...on the plane. Mr. Segura left at Phoenix, AZ to his family. His last remarks were about football. So, it's just me and Laur walking around the terminal. Let me tell you something. I have travel anxiety like major travel anxiety. I only had 45 minutes to find out where I needed to board. Laur had 2 hours. Of course, panic was set in motion in my head, but from the outside perspective, I look calm. Laur asked if we should get dinner, but the lines at the venues didn't help my anxiety. I said something stupid like I am trying to move away from social eating. Of course, I also forgot that I could have spent the remainder of my scholarship money on food including that dinner. Hey, it's okay, Laur asked if we wanted to get snacks, instead and I said yes to that offer.

I don't remember if Laur offered to buy my snack. I want to say she did because she took the initiative while I, being the awkward person with time distorted in my mind, declined her generosity. I don't remember what I bought, either. Regardless, snacks in hand, we sat near my terminal and at ease, I talked about mushrooms, showed her a picture of morels, even. Just like that, my time to board has come. Laur got up and left with her body of knowledge. This is no movie. This is no anime. I didn't turn back to look as she walked away, blond hair billowing in the non-existent wind. I didn't run after her, leaving my plane behind to get dinner. I flew home. At this point, my best friend, Hank, would be yelling in frustration at my lost opportunity.

Years later, my librarian friend, Amellia, would point out about my realism. True, I am very pragmatic in my decisions. My philosopher friend, Zach, told me to watch Lost in Translation as a comparative analysis to my story. Yeah, in a short amount of time, people who would not have met through normal circumstances, happened to spent time together and change each other's lives. There is no cry for help or plea, but rather an appreciation for the opportunity and time well spent. So, how does all of this tie into the fun-gal? Opportunity is the best description of fungi. Fungi are opportunistic meaning that given the right conditions to grow, they will grow. They will find ways to grow whether the wind or water carries their thousands of spores, or they form an alliance with bacteria and algae to form lichen. Fungi like pilobolus can grow from fecal matter. Other fungi live in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees and others will parasitize, even other mushrooms like the lobster mushroom. To personify the entire fungal kingdom is to appreciate their mindset in taking the opportunity to expand their horizons and give their best shot to grow. Somewhere in the multiverse, the opportunity was seized upon and flourished. Somewhere else in the multiverse, the opportunity died in golden flames. The opportunity still remains.

Brian Chau

P.S. Chau Time is produced and edited by Brian Chau. Logo design was done by Charis Poon. Music was produced by Jadey Gonzalez. If you liked bits and pieces of this podcast and would like to support Chau Time, please visit my Patreon page. You may follow me on Instragram @this_is_chau_time. Feel free to tweet @ChauTimesfor your thoughts and inputs. Check out the rest of my website http://chau-time.com/ for more information. You may listen to Chau Time every week wherever you get your podcasts.