I’ve started watching a new YouTube series called The Art Assignment, in which Sarah Urist Green takes us to different artists, who talk a little bit about their work, and then give the viewers an assignment. The very first episode featured the Meet in the Middle Assignment. The rules are as follows:
1. Pick a friend, and calculate the exact geographic midpoint between where the two of you live.
You can use http://www.geomidpoint.com/ or other websites to calculate your midpoint, or even—gasp—use a paper map.
2. Decide on a date and a time to meet there, and don’t communicate until then.
3. Document your experience. You can do this however you’d like, using photos, video, text, drawings, or anything else.
4. Upload your documentation and share it online using whatever social media platforms you prefer, being sure to tag it with #theartassignment so we can find it. Your response to the assignment may be included in a future episode!
Being that I am currently without a vehicle, and don’t have any scheduled time off my job in the near future, I needed to find someone local who would be interested in doing this project with me. I may do this project again in the future when I have a chance to travel outside of my city, but I was very excited to do the project for the first time as soon as possible. I put a plea out on Facebook for a partner, and received word from a new friend, Brie, that she was interested. Hurray!
I’ve only met Brie once before, but nearly immediately decided we could be friends. We met over a round of Battlestar Galactica the Board Game, and our personalities and sense of humour seem very compatible. Although we befriended each other on Facebook, we haven’t seen each other since about a month ago when we played the game.
I plotted the midpoint between our houses in Victoria, BC, and we set a date and time to meet: Wednesday, February 26th at 5:15pm on the corner of Joan Crescent and Fort Street, next to a stone pillar I was able to view on Google Street View. She’d bring the snacks, and I’d try to bring beverages (and if all else fails, the first round at the closest pub would be on me). I am proud to say that I grabbed by Robbie Burns flask on the way out the door to work on the morning of the meeting (since I’ll be going to the meeting directly from work), so I hope Brie likes Scotch. If not, the aforementioned pub idea springs to mind.
What I have written so far is the set up for the adventure. Everything after the break in this post will be my portion of the adventure story of our Meet In The Middle (after it has happened).
We’ve stuck to our promise to not communicate since we set the time and date, and my only worry is getting out of work on time today so I can make my bus and not be late. One of the things that stresses me out the most in the world is being late for things, and this is made even worse when I can’t contact someone to tell them I’m running late. Brie and I are such new friends that I don’t even have her phone number yet, so I wouldn’t be able to contact her even if I were running late and wanted to break the rules (which I most certainly do not).
I was late. I hate being late.
The bus was five minutes late to my stop. Late bus – would I be late? (I knew that I would, but secretly hoped that the bus would make up the time.) Rush hour traffic – does Google Maps take that into consideration? My estimated arrival time was 5:07pm, and with the bus already 5 minutes late – that was not much of a buffer for our 5:15pm meeting.
An interesting observation I made while sitting on the bus, waiting to inch closer to my destination, was that while doing a project like this, I was forced to be present in the journey because I want to capture the trip accurately. As I stood at a bus stop that I have rarely stood at before, and as I rode a route I hadn’t taken regularly since university, thoughts about previous use of this bus route popped into my head. I noticed new things about my old neighbourhood: new buildings, such as an apartment complex where a church used to be, but my old apartment balcony looked the same. There is a new bus stop outside the building in which I lived from 2005 – 2006, although I spent far more time at school that in that apartment.
I became nervous about finding the right spot once we finally passed through the downtown core, and wondered on which side of the street the pillars were – as that is where we decided to meet.
Time moved much faster than the bus, and I noticed my body jittering. Was I nervous or was that just the jitter of the bus’s engine? I recognized it as the second, and told myself to relax. Brie didn’t seem like the type of person who would think, “5:16pm, I guess she’s not coming” and leave. She knew (I hoped) that I was excited to meet her, and I seem to remember apologizing in advance if work ran late, causing me to run late. It would all work out.
5:04pm – we hadn’t even crossed the bridge yet, meaning we still had to get through downtown – and it was at this point I accepted that I was going to be late and there was nothing I can do about it. I even took the time to write the following song about my predicament (you can hear me sing it here):
Sitting in traffic
Sitting in traffic, can’t do a thing about it
Sitting in traffic
Sitting in traffic, writing a beat about it
Hope she’s there when I arrive
Hope she knows I’m still alive
Sitting in traffic
Sitting in traffic, worryin’ won’t change a thing about it
(If you listen to the recording, I had to stop part way through, because someone came into the room, and had to continue recording when they left. I was determined to do the recording on my phone in one take and not stress out about it. It was in two pieces, but nothing was recorded twice.)
I wasn’t sure if it technically broke any rules, considering I wasn’t sending a message directly to Brie, but I took the time to update my Facebook status: “Waiting in traffic at a location that feels very far away from where I am supposed to be at 5:15pm. Google Maps is good, but it can’t completely predict the future.”
If Brie were bored, waiting for me and checking social media on her phone, she might read that and know that I was on my way. I didn’t count on it, though.
All told, I was only about 10 minutes late. I mostly felt bad that it was so cold out, and when I finally ran up the sidewalk and jumped in front of her, all of the agitation about not being there when I meant to be there melted away. She had brought us a cupcake. I mentioned the whisky in my bag, although I was a little wary of drinking it in broad daylight on the side of a busy road. We decided to go for a pint instead, on me, and we started walking to find one.
Along the way, she introduced me to Bug, her bike, who was a replacement for the bike she had had for 19 years. Bug is a top of the line beauty of a bike, and it is my hope that she and Brie stay friends for many years. We chatted about where we each grew up, where we have traveled (we both have significant love for Edinburgh, Scotland – but really, who has been there and doesn’t love it?), what we have studied. We both agreed that Guinness in Canada is nowhere near as delicious as Guinness in Dublin.
Upon arriving at the pub, I ordered a Granville Island Winter Ale (as it is one of my favourite beers and nearly out of season) while Brie asked for something dark, but not Guinness (it really isn’t the same). We chatted about our families, our friends, or love for literature and how the books is always better than the film (although she convinced me that splitting “The Hobbit” into three movies wasn’t purely a money grab, and that care is being taken with the plot and characters, so I might lift my ban on watching it to enjoy some Freeman/Cumberbatch time). We split her fantastically tasty cupcake as the pub grew busier and people paying sports on the screens occasionally did things that made patrons scream in either joy, anticipation or anger.
We said our goodbyes outside the pub, as I was invited to dine with other friends, and I assume she was looking forward to eating dinner as well. We vowed to hang out again, and even mentioned that we needed another round of Battlestar Galactica the Board Game in the near future. I dodged into traffic, glad I had the wherewithal to not get hit by the van that ran a red down the street from my illegal attempted cross. I tried to flag down a taxi (as home was now far away, and my meal was a few houses from home), but the first one drove away. Getting into a second one a few minutes later, I was smiling, already reflecting back on how much I enjoyed our Meet in the Middle. Realizing I still didn’t have her phone number, I sent a brief message to Brie requesting that we adventure together more often.
The art in this assignment: I wouldn’t have revisited old memories, and old stomping grounds, if it weren’t for this assignment. I wouldn’t have written the Traffic Song, and even though it is simplistic in nature, it felt nice to sing something I had written before I could talk myself out of putting it online for the project. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to connect with my new friend if we hadn’t met in the middle.
I am very much looking forward to the next assignment.