because i am southern, every so often i will engage in chitchat with strangers when the situation arises. people from other places just don't do this. some of my fellow southerners take this too far - i have a friend who is SHOCKED, just SHOCKED, that no one wants to have a conversation with him as he commutes into the city at 8:00 in the morning. i had to explain to him that, since you're not allowed to drink coffee on the metro, no one is in the mood to be friendly on the morning commute. this was unsettling and sad to him. say what you will about the south; we are some friendly freaking people, whether you're into that sort of thing or not.
but ANYWAY, today on the way into school, the train driver stopped particularly sharply at the station where i get out. he jostled me into the pole, which bugged me, but no biggie; he nearly sent the old man standing next to me flying across the car. well, that's one way to do it, he said sarcastically. i laughed and said, seriously. he smiled at me. i like your necklace. what is it? oh, it's a fleur-de-lis. what does it represent? i wear it to represent louisiana. no deeper meaning? he replied.
i was a little surprised by that question. my initial answer was no, as we parted ways and headed off to wherever our days took us. symbols are powerful things for humans, i suppose. the cross gives comfort and assurance to christians, i'm told. we wear the logos of our favorite sports teams to the ball park to show support and bond with our fellow fans (even when unfathomably stupid sports columnists tell us that doing so justifies us getting beaten nearly to death). we use symbols in so many ways, to mean so many things. it's our nature; we, as the ex liked to say, enjoy putting things in little boxes.
and lord knows the fleur-de-lis has a lot of meaning in my life. hell, not only do i wear one around my neck almost all the time, i have one tattooed on my body. i care enough about the pelican state to carry its quintessential symbol on my skin for the rest of my time on earth. so what's deeper than that? i mean, to say that it represents louisiana for me is obviously a surface description. it's more than that: it's the saints, new orleans, LSU, the cajun two-step, crawfish boils and drive-through daiquiris, the way the sun sparkles over the pontchartrain spillway, the amazing people i love so much... the list goes on and on.
so, nice old man on the metro, i guess there is some deeper meaning in my fleur-de-lis. and on a gorgeous day here in the district, your question has made me seriously nostalgic for a land and its people eleven hundred miles away...